August 11, 2012

Achieving goals with agile – using Kanban and scrum with kids and at home


Sometimes people ask me if using Kanban or Scrum at home can actually be used for setting and following goals.

‘Duh’, I answer. Well, not really, as I’m a polite person, but that’s what I’d LIKE to answer. Kanban or Scrum tools aren’t limited for kids or family or office or software development. Kanban and scrum is limited only by your imagination. Just think about it for a second. Everyone KNOWS it’s a software development method - but it isn’t just that. It originated (and then translated to fit software development)in Toyota, as a way of making cars in a more efficient way.
OK, so know that you know you can do anything with Agile (Kanban or Scrum), how do you go about setting your goals - and achieving them? Luckily, I have a real-life example.
When we set goals on a Scrum software project, amongst other methods, we sometimes use the retrospective to base our improvements on. We then take some action items and set goals for the next sprint. This is Scrum. In Kanban we don’t have sprints, but the software development teams also perform action items based on the need to improve.
So the goals we set are actually some kind of user story, actions or issues we wish to improve. They are related to what we need to achieve and deliver. We then analyze the goal and understand it, until we get to the point where the goal’s tasks are clear and practical.
It’s exactly the same at home. We set goals from inputs we get in the daily family gathering, or dinner, or retrospective, or whatever.
I won’t go into setting goals to any great detail , this is a huge subject to cover in a short post. You can read MindToolsexcellent post about setting personal goals if you want to do more research.
Using Agile in a family, along with Kanban and Scrum-y tools, already sets the stage for goal setting. Kanban and Scrum are visual and empowering tools, and of course, create a constant family dialogue. Communication is key for achieving goals, and for Scrum & Kanban at home.
Using Scrum and Kanban at home teaches our kids (and us) how to be responsible and own tasks and goals. When you see your goals on a daily basis, it’s much easier to achieve them.

 There are many ways to set goals, here is one.....Now for a practical example :

1. Ask yourself what is that you want to achieve.
By the way, when I’m talking about a child, I mean ‘Ask’ him. Don’t tell him. I’ve seen Kanban boards with ‘reading achievements’ as a goal. I always hope that it’s a goal that the kid really wants to achieve, but I tend to believe it’s more of a goal that the parent wants the kid to achieve. You CAN use Kanban to monitor your children, but this will get us the wrong results.
The person that needs to achieve the goal needs to feel that the goal is his. It won't empower anyone to achieve goals they aren’t connected to. This is one of the reasons that good a coach always asks, ‘what do we want to achieve’, they don’t say ‘this is your personal goal’.
We want our kids to starts owning their tasks and goals, so they will want to achieve them. They have to define their own goals.
2. Start simple, with something relatively achievable.
If we want to succeed, it’s far easier to start with a simple goal the kids want. When they achieve the goal, and feel that glow of success, we can progress to 'harder' goals.
Also, don’t start off by setting a goal that’s achievable in the distant future - like, ‘I want to be a doctor’.
For example, my son’s goal was to run 5,000 meters in under 22 minutes.
3. A goal is achieved by taking small steps.
Just as with a software project, big steps are overwhelming. Plan out with your kid how to achieve the plan through baby steps.
Let’s take my son’s goal for example.
‘ I want to run 5,000 meters in under 22 minutes’
What are the tasks we need to do in order to achieve that?
Well, he’s already got a coach. So he needs to :
a.      Go to the coaching session
b.      Run by himself twice a week
c.       Measure his time every two weeks
d.      Do track exercises before and after every coaching session
e.      Eat well.
And those are easy-to-understand tasks.
By the way, did you notice that the first task requires my help as well? Someone has to take him to the coaching session, after all. So I add this to my commitments as well. So as you see, sometimes our children need our help in achieving their goals.
Obvious, true, but worth pointing out.
4. Visualize your tasks!
Get those tasks in order to be on the way towards achieving the goals.
Using the Kanban task board the goal becomes visible, and it is far easier to be accountable for it. We can also see the whole picture, not just the small actions.
Visualization, as always, is one of the greatest tools to get things done. We see it , it exists , we think about our goal. But this time, we also think about the small steps that we need to complete in our way to our goal.
I personally recommend placing a special swim lane on the board for those tasks, so you can follow them among all the other family tasks.
We may find that some tasks are routine tasks, such as ‘Coaching session’ every Monday and Friday, while others are daily tasks, such as ‘eat a healthy meal’.

5. Do one thing at a time.
Don’t run at your goal like crazy. Just as you need to pace yourself when you rung 5,000 meters, pace yourself when you try to achieve your goal, until you are done.
You can see your tasks every day. You can just look at the board, and see exactly where you stand.
6. Change according to our needs.
My son stayed up late watching a soccer match on TV one night. The next day, his training went badly, with poor results. So we added a new rule to the board - ‘A good night’s sleep before practice’.
7. Inspect and communicate the tasks every day.
This is the scrum part of the method . Every day talk your tasks over in the daily session. This is what it is for. Communicating your goals and setting them to a relevant level, help gets impediments removed. When our child makes us pay attention to his goals, he will probably be able to achieve them. It's hard to set goals and be left alone for weeks to struggle with them alone, and be disappointed from not achieving them.
For example : How was it today? How was my run today? What do I need to change or keep?
8. Inspect the goal every week.
Another Scrum oriented tool is to be able to look back and learn. Then look ahead and see what can we do better. Doing this every week is probably enough. We may find that we are regressing at some point, but as long as our goal is there, we only need to change our tasks and schedule to make sure we keep it.

9. Don’t forget to have fun while doing it.
Fun is a key!! Don’t push too hard, they are kids.

And I will say it again; I hope you know already that we can achieve this way, also personal goals, class goals, and any goal. Just set them up on the Kanban task board and use the scrum daily gathering and retrospective to follow..
References :
 Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-scale Production, Taiichi Ohno
Scrum and XP from the Trenches , how we do Scrum;Version 2.2;2007-04-21;Henrik Kniberg; henrik.kniberg

1 comment:

  1. This is so cool. Following along on ScoopIt. Had no idea about Agile in the fmaily setting. Very creative. Can totally see how kids would get into it.