Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why Scrum 4 Kids?

I started doing Scrum about 5 years ago. At the time, it just seemed like a better way to do project management. As I grew to understand Scrum better, I learned Scrum was above all a mindset and a set of values.

As I got deeper into Scrum (and as my family grew), I had occasion to try out some of the underlying principles and practices at home. To my surprise, the principles and practices were often surprisingly useful for mundane, every-day things like: staying in tune with my wife, getting the kids out of bed and off to school, and reducing conflict in the family.

Somehow I can't imagine applying RUP or the V-Model to challenges at home. This convinced me that Scrum (and Agile in general) are about deeper issues than just project management.

At the Scrum Gathering in Munich last October, I had to privilege of joining a group of Scrum coaches and trainers for dinner and drinks (yes, we did consume more than just liquid refreshment). Among other things, we brainstormed on where would Scrum be in 5 years? Our sober conclusion: exactly where it is today, because the schools will continue to produce adults more or less like they do today, and -- however Scrum looks then -- the role of the trainer and coach will be do undo the damage done.

I have experimented with task boards for my kids, daily scrums with my wife, retrospectives with the whole family, and applying Scrum's concept of delegate responsibility to get better participation from my kids. I went to my son's first grade class and had them play the Ball Point Game. Some attempts worked well, others less so. One failed dramatically. Each was a learning experience and I am fascinated by how similar kids (even very young kids) are to adults in how they are motivated and how they respond to other people.

So this blog is a venue to share those experiences. I plan to write as I have time about these experiences. I hope other readers will comment and share their experiences, or even become authors on the blog. (As I write this, I am not even sure if a blog is the right medium, but hey, gotta start somewhere!)

Have you applied Scrum or Agile principles and practices to your family life, in particular with your kids? Please comment and tell me about it! If you have ideas, please share them either as a comment or offline.

I look forward to some interesting discussions!


  1. Good Job, applying agile principle in family is nice idea. and i think the most important part of agile is incremental process model and learning new things as it progress. this idea is exist in universe and its related with intelligent design and evolutionary theory ;)

  2. Very Good idea. Here is an example of the use of SCRUM prioritization and visual management with my kids for Santa Claus:

    Jean Claude
    Agile Coach & UX Consultant

  3. Great stuff!

    People interested in Scrum 4 Kids may also be interested in Scrum in Schools:

  4. Thanks for the feedback everyone! I now have notifications turned on, so I can respond quicker.

    @JC - :-D That is definitely worth trying this year.

    @Michael - I have put a blog roll on the front page with links to related blogs. Hopefully there will be others...

    @MyOpenDraft - yes! I have found the incremental approach quite useful. Making things visible, regular communication, and above all, delegating responsibility have also been very useful principles. These are things I want to write about.

  5. I have two kids. I think the extent to which you can do 'scrum' has a lot to do with their ages.

    We have found that a single scrum practice provides a ton of value. And, I would argue that before trying to do any other part of scrum, doing this single one will have a huge impact.

    Its simply having the 'daily scrum' -- IE, have dinner with your family every day, when possible at the same place (Home at the dinner table), and at the same time. Simple, and well understood, and provides many economies.

    Every day that is possible, we have dinner together, and we go around the table and do 'best and worst' -- what was the best thing that happened to you today, and what was the worst thing that happened today.

    Yes, this is not exactly scrum, because 'best and worst' does not achieve the goal of focusing everyone's efforts on a single goal or purpose.

    But kids are not going to have a 1-month plan at a young age. Its better IMO just to let them communicate naturally.

    We do this regardless of venue: eating out, at friends, etc.

    This is the essence of scrum: face-to-face communication, and a single, simple rule.

    Even this single simple rule is sometimes very hard to accomplish. As our youngest starts doing sports, sometimes it is logistically impossible to do dinner together. But that's usually only 1 night per week.

  6. We recently started having a family meeting on Sunday night.

    First we have a planning meeting - what is going on this week, who needs to be where on which day. I don't miss important evening events anymore. We have better coordination too. Kids don't have much input here, but they listen to things they will be doing (chickens).

    Then we have a retrospective. What problems are we having? What are some ideas we can try? We refine the ideas. We evaluate things we tried last week. Kids have a lot of input here (pigs).

    Then we have an around-the-table prayer, taking turns to focus on challenges for the week. We talk about people we are concerned about, even outside of our family.

    I think I will try the daily meeting discussion at dinner. I hope to keep mentally in touch with what my kids like doing and what they have challenges with.

  7. Peter,
    I have been using agile methods with my children since first being introduced to the Microsoft Solutions Framework in the mid 90s. I've even created the Agile Parents Manifesto.
    Love you ideas on extending Scrum to the family. More proof it is common sense but not common practice.