After passing the iSQI Certified Agile Essentials when I joined Sogeti three months ago, I was trying very hard to remember where I had first heard the word “agile”. I was sure it was not at university – but where and when was it?
Recently, I managed to remember as I came again across a TED talk by Bruce Feiler, author of “The Secrets of Happy Families” among others. This time I watched the video with much greater enthusiasm! Let me now walk you through it…
Agile Programming – for your family
In Bruce Feiler’s talk, he suggests incorporating agile methodologies into modern family life in order to deal with stress. Inspired by agile software programming, he illustrates how an “Agile Family Manifesto” can help families find happiness. Interesting, isn’t it?
The word “agile” entered the lexicon in 2001 when the 12 principles of Agile Manifesto were developed as opposed to the existing waterfall model. But what is “agile” in simple words? It is when people are organised into small groups to build efficiencies through carrying out tasks in very short spans of time and from this the team manages itself providing constant feedback and daily update sessions (the so called daily stand-up meetings).
The more I think about it the more I believe that agile can be a part of our home, not only our businesses. How is this possible?
Feiler introduced agile methodology to his family’s practices by holding family meetings once a week. Sitting around the table with his wife and two daughters, they discussed what worked well that week, what worked less well and what could be improved for the next week. Then, every member made suggestions of improvement and they agreed on the next steps together. Let’s think deeper on that! Surely this approach improves communication and decrease stress in daily life just like it does in business life? Isn’t it important for every family member to feel useful for family practices as it is essential for team members to feel valuable in business project’s operations?
My childhood agile experience!
Motivated by this TED talk, I thought back to my childhood and surprisingly, I realised that I too had been part of an agile environment. There was a specific family project: “Housekeeping Chores” and a team (my family) who needed to deliver an end product (a clean house). My mother was, of course, the Scrum Master.
The very first time, my sister and I sat down with her and specified the requirements and the different tasks. That was our “kick-off meeting” as we created a list of all the housework that needed to be done every week. We wrote a list and stuck it on the fridge so that everyone could see it – that was our backlog! Washing the dishes, tidying the room, setting the table, making the bed… My sister and I were assigned some of these tasks for every day. We both had to make our beds before go to school, I was responsible for washing the dishes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; my sister on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I was lucky enough not to take Saturdays as I am the oldest and I chose first – siblings’ rules! My mum had still to do the toughest chores, though!
As the Scrum master, my mum also supervised the process making sure that everything worked according to the plan. She also had to adjust the plan if either of us were sick and had to stay in bed or if we were on a school trip. That is, adapting to change and flexibility, right?! While we were getting older, more tasks were being added to our task board because we were able to undertake more responsibilities – this is a form of reviewing and adapting again, isn’t it?
Did my mum know anything about agile methodology? No… Did she attend the Certified Agile Essentials course as I did? No… However, she was able to implement some of the core principles of agile into our family. Did it work? Yes! Our house was clean and everyone was responsible for this outcome.
Do families operate the same way as businesses? Maybe yes, maybe no… But, can agile improve communication at home as it does in businesses? Definitely, yes!
Eventually, my retrospect helped me reach the same conclusion about daily life as Feiler did about well-run organisations: “Greatness is not a matter of circumstances, it’s a matter of choice. You just need to take small steps, not grand plans, not waterfall”. Is agile your choice?