Four weeks ago my wife, Melanie, reviewed a paper I was writing about Agile Work. When I talked to her about it, she asked me why we aren’t using these practices for managing our household.
So, we decided to try it. First we developed a starting Work Queue. It includes stuff like “eye appointment for Mishkin” and “build boxes for vegetable garden” and “set up expenditures spreadsheet”. It covers any activity that is non-repeating, non-business. Things we need to do with the kids, renovations, travel plans, personal finances, community work, social events.
Once we developed our Work Queue, we agreed that Melanie would be the Queue Master, responsible for managing the work and prioritizing it. So, with a small amount of coaching, she prioritized our rather long list of Work Queue items.
We then jointly decided how much to accomplish over the next week. Our iteration length is one week because we already have a natural rhythm of that length due to my travel schedule for work. We took on about 15 items from the queue, and committed to getting them done.
We have now been doing this for a little more than three weeks. Having this process in place has been helpful in a number of ways. First of all, because it is in priority order, our level of stress about what we need to do is decreasing rapidly. Secondly, we are starting to develop a sense of how much work we can accomplish in a one-week period. By being focused, I am finding that we can get more done than I would otherwise expect. Thirdly, by working in weekly iterations, we can quickly adjust to things that come up. Finally, we have a clear set of expectations about what we will accomplish and this reduces feelings of tension around household work.
There are some things that I would like to add to our approach. We have three young children and I would like them to become involved with the process. The eldest is nearly seven, reads at least three years ahead of his age, and is certainly capable of understanding the text-based format of our planning. I would also like to see how we can incorporate acceptance test-driven work into the mix. Because we are such a small team this may be overkill, but at this point we are not explicitly checking our work at all or setting any sort of acceptance criteria. I can see that jumping up to bite us in the future.
I would be interested in hearing from anyone else who has tried applying agile techniques and practices in their own households.