This week on the program Ryn will help discover ways to incorporate Agile project management into everyday life. There are a lot of people who do not want their work to follow them home, but in this case its not just O.K. but pretty darn clever.
The core message of Living La Vida Agile is to take the practices from Agile that are proven to increase engagement, reduce stress and improve communication and bring them home. Everyone is looking for ways to improve life at home. These Agile practices that perform so well in the workplace will also work at home.
Doing a lot of very analytical work helped prepare Ryn for taking the lessons of her profession home. One of those was the cost/benefit ratio. When Ryn makes big purchases or career choices she does so with the help of a cost benefit analysis. She does the same with financial decisions. This allows her to separate the emotional components of decision-making from the more rational, financial part. “Do I really need a brand new car or can I get by with one that is 2 years old,” Ryn asked. “It is a very rational approach to decision making that removes the emotion. And buying a car or a house is an emotional process. People can get their emotional needs met differently. And even the process itself helps people get through the emotions.”
The process also lessens conflict at home. When rules are fairly and adequately applied to all family members it removes a lot of the emotion. The volume and stress comes down while the understanding goes up.
Ryn devised a color-coded label system for boxes during a move.
Ryn and company have moved quite a few times and these were major moves. First she worked with her family, creating project plans. Every box full of household belongings has a color-coded label. “The movers get a map of the house that is also coded to match the plan,” she told podcast listeners. She did this to help with her own organization, but it was useful to the movers as well. When the movers leave, the boxes do not have to be rearranged because they were put in the right place at the right time the first time. There are also color-coded labels for the room doors that make the effort even easier. “With this process, you move once and you are done,” she said. “Agile equals better ideas and continuous improvement at home and at work”.
Ryn used a Kanban board to plan the holidays from October 31 – January 1. What is a Kanban board? A Kanban board is a standard Agile tool that helps organize work. It is generally mounted on a wall but there are also programs and apps that can mimic the wall function. “There is a section for backlog for all the work that has to be done, and another for work in progress, and another for the work that is completed, which has to be reviewed by an adult and another that is for done,” Ryn said. “ I include another column for each person to clearly see who is working on what. Kids like to see what they have done and how many story points they’ve earned. It only takes a few seconds to see what is getting done and by whom.”
Ryn also incorporates the ‘user story’ and what makes it different from mere notes on a post it note. A user story is bigger than a task but something that has to get done. “We use use super sticky post its, because they get moved around a good bit,” she said.
Ryn cites some good examples of user stories. “A good user story is clean the kitchen,” she said. “Another at Christmas is bake 12 cookies. This is a well defined task and that is what makes for a good user story.”
There are some things around the house that have to be more defined. Like clean the yard. Does that include mowing, raking, trimming, edging etc. There is a lot more to it the yard work than cleaning. So each of these are separate user stories because they are well defined.
One year Ryn ended up with 147 user stories for holiday related activities between Halloween and New Year’s Day. So Ryn created a Kanban board and started writing user stories. Some things were very important like buying gifts for others and baking those cookies. Other things that did not get worked on during the holiday sprints were not that high of a priority. “Using the Kanban board forced us to decide what was the most important and what was not,” Ryn stated. “The less important things were not worked on and fell off the list. It’s funny how people think that one thing is really important but as we forced ourselves to prioritize as a family we decided what was and was not important.”
Another benefit to the Agile approach at home is as a conflict reducer. According to Ryn, the process helped with prioritization and the kids got to see how the adults think. Parents are not always good about answering the ‘why’ question. “As good Agilists, explaining the why leads to a huge leap in understanding,” she said. “It also gives the kids the chance to question the why. Adults who share the why take it out of the emotional and into the rational. We moved from the terrible answer every parent gives, ‘because I said so’, to the real reason.”
Subscribe to The Guardian Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud