We started our family’s journey into Scrum with the 30-minute time box, but we knew we needed to take it a step further. While the time box was a great start, the kids asked me the entire time what they needed to do. At almost 11, 9 and 6, I wanted them to be empowered to get things done without my help.
On a Sunday morning during breakfast, I grabbed some Post It notes, put them on the kitchen table and asked the kids, “What are the jobs we need to do every week to keep our house in order?”
“We started our family’s journey into Scrum with the 30-minute time box, but we knew we needed to take it a step further.”
-The Scrum Mom
They came up with really great tasks, such as “Clean the playroom closet”, “Sweep the pantry floor”, and “Water the plants”.
While I was fretting over not being able to find more than two colors of Post It notes, I excused myself from sprint planning for about 3 minutes. When I came back I was shocked to see that the kids had finished writing down all of their jobs and had self-organized themselves enough to distribute the tasks!
I was really surprised because I was sure they needed me to facilitate this activity, but they actually did much better when I left them to figure it out. Amazing how that works!
They had each chosen eight fairly large tasks, which is way more than I would have given them if I were to assign chores.
As the ScrumMomster, I had to coach them a bit on breaking down tasks into manageable chunks of work. For example, one task simply said, “Living room”. “What is it you want to do in the living room?” I asked. “We will pick up our toys in the living room,” said Eithan. “Great,” I said. “Why don’t we write that down on the Post It so you know what you need to do.”
Our entire sprint planning session only lasted 10 minutes, mostly because the kids were so eager to write out their tasks and distribute them, so there was very little resistance from them and they found it to be fun.
I was very tempted to write out the tasks myself because I knew it would be more legible, but having the kids write out the tasks themselves got them a lot more engaged in the effort.
After they determined their tasks and distributed the work, we went over to a white board that we have used for the kids in the past and turned it into a Kanban-style board. I had the kids’ school pictures already taped to the left of the board, so I decided to use those as their personal swim lanes.
My six-year-old daughter wanted to more easily see her jobs apart from her brothers’ so she got out a notebook and wrote everything down on new Post It notes that she could keep for herself.
When we first put up the board, it was set up by day of the week, but we quickly learned that it was adding a level of complexity that was unnecessary, so we adapted and moved to a simple “To Do”, “In Progress” and “Done” system.
I offered an incentive: If everyone works together and meets the sprint goal of completing all of the tasks, we would go out for ice cream. Where we would go for ice cream led to fighting, so I said that if the reward was earned, I would choose the place and it will be a surprise.
As a ScrumMaster by profession, I wanted to see what lessons I could learn from my kids that I could use with my clients. Here are a few:
- Sometimes walking away is the best way for the team to self-organize.
- Even if something isn’t done how you would do it, it is better to let the team find their way than to do it for them (like letting them write out their own tasks).
- Don’t be too stuck on the process. The process of moving the Post It notes around the board was messy – each kid had their own way they wanted it done. However, I realized that my interfering with this would crush their enthusiasm and defeat the purpose.
So, how did our first sprint go? I will be describing that in my next blog post, so please subscribe to hear our journey as it progresses!