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Agile...It's NOT Just for Software Development

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to pivot and stretch more than we could have ever imagined. Agile is well known in the software development community but how can this way of working be embraced and adapted in other environments? Learn more about how I leveraged Agile Principles and Values (Agile Manifesto) to be Agile@Home.

Agile has 12 Principles and 4 Values that are used by teams to develop software, solutions, and/or services. When you take a few minutes to really think about it, many of these principles and values are easily transferrable to a non-software development environment. For example, consider principle #4 “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project”, principle #12 “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly”, or value #3 “Responding to Change over following a plan”. In our homes, we should strive to work together, take time to reflect on our growth as a family, and have a plan in place to adapt when our plans are disrupted.

None of us started the calendar year thinking we’d be battling a global pandemic. I can’t speak on your behalf but Spring 2020 was a test for me personally as well as for my family. What workspaces did we need? Did we have the right materials/supplies? Would we have enough bandwidth to support a family of 5 being online all day? How we would get everything done without burnout or letting something fall by the wayside? The list could go on and on…This is when I began to slowly introduce my family to the Agile Manifesto and began using tools/practices that I would typically only use with my leaders and teams as an Agile Coach. I started noticing positive change and began observing more independent learning and accountability for schoolwork as well as general household responsibilities (aka chores). My family survived the spring and summer but after learning the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year would be a continuation of virtual learning I knew being Agile@Home would become a way of life for the Williams Family.

Most of us probably do a fairly decent job with visualizing our work at home (i.e. to do lists, kanban board, spreadsheets, shared calendars, etc.). Given that assumption, I’ll share with you how to go beyond the basics and give you 3 tips to begin making your home more agile. You can be more Agile@Home by:

1.Implementing Timeboxes

2.Building Buy-In

3.Enhancing Communication

Implementing Timeboxes—What is a Timebox and why is it needed?

Timeboxes give us limits to working on a defined task. They are important to build awareness and establish boundaries as needed. In our homes, these timeboxes may look like a nighttime/wake-up routine, a scheduled exercise time, “cafeteria” availability, office hours, online class time, or even tech time (i.e. video games, TV, cell phone usage). These timeboxes can be negotiated but will only be proven effective with buy-in and compliance.

Build Buy-In—Why and Who Participates?

Change is proven to be most effective when all parties involved have a seat at the table. Instead of the boardroom table, the entire Agile@Home team should meet at the kitchen table (or their favorite comfy spot) to create a sustainable working/living agreement. Agile teams create contracts/agreements to outline expectations for how they’ll operate and self-organize. The Agile@Home contract should do the absolute same! Buy-in builds agreement and boosts individual accountability. This in return helps to increase trust through inclusion.

Enhance Communication—Family Feedback

An agile team is coached to integrate feedback loops into their way of working. This is in the form of a retrospective (also known as lessons learned in Waterfall Project Management). Retrospectives should occur at an agreed upon frequency, day, and time to ensure the entire team is available. This is a forum of sharing. Everyone has an opportunity to share what’s been going well, what’s not going so well, and what processes should continue. Also, this time should be used to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. At home, this could be in the form of sharing promotions, good grades, or new skills learned. Other feedback loops can include daily stand-ups and/or a family meeting.

Each household is unique so you will need to determine what timeboxes, agreements, and feedback loops make the most sense for you. Remember to start where you are by defining expected outcomes and objectives. After you have figured that out, don’t forget to inspect and adapt as needed.

What actions will you take to be more Agile@Home?


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