Parents are naturally Agile and don’t know it.
Yes, you read that correctly. You’re Agile and don’t even realize it.
What is Agile?
Agile was initially designed for software development, so you may be asking yourself: what does that have to do with being a parent?
Agile, simply put, is a way of completing tasks in an adaptable manner as a team. That may sound like common sense. But think back to when you’ve ever had to convince anyone, let alone a child, to change their minds. I’m betting they put up some resistance, at least initially.
So, how are parents Agile already without realizing it? Let’s walk through the various parts of Agile methodology and find out.
Agile Methodology Through the Lens of Parenting
As a parent, things are constantly in motion with children: in the air, about to happen, or need to be planned. This constant state of replanning is the sprint. The backlog is the future expectation of milestones, i.e., crawling, waking, teething, etc., that all need to be addressed down the line. These too are constantly reprioritized, ready for a future “sprint,” as there is no exact order in which a child will achieve these milestones.
There’s a learning curve to being a parent as well. Do it faster. Then do it better. Then do it faster and better. Sound familiar? A child’s developmental milestones can be restated as big tasks (epics) that need to be split into more manageable smaller tasks (stories).
The process of faster and better is the iterations process within Agile. If you’re a parent, you were probably much better at feeding, bathing, and soothing your child in year two vs. year one. The entire process was also probably easier if you had subsequent kids, because although each child is different, your mindset changed into parenting mode without you realizing it.
The next one is easy: time-boxes. There are no long meetings as a parent. There’s the time between now, the next task, and the next fire-drill. There’s barely time to plan, and then you’re turning around and immediately re-planning.
User stories is another easy one to relate to. One of the primary functions of Agile is to focus on relating the tasks to outcomes. The client (child) has a need. Your job is to fulfill the need. The outcome is a satisfied client (child). If you discover a better way to perform the task, it’s incorporated into the action, but the required outcome is the same.
Planning poker may sound odd at first, but its purpose is to identify ambiguity and clarify priorities. For example: one parent may think that the child focusing on learning an instrument at an early age is a higher priority than the other who prioritizes learning a second language. In having these discussions and assigning a weighted value to each task, everyone getting on the same page faster in order to move forward together means more efficient and more successful products.
A software developer’s “kanban board” is really just a constantly evolving to-do list. The most common kanban sequence is “To do,” “In progress,” and “Done.” This is where the next part of Agile comes into focus. Transparency is key. Each parent or team member must know what the others are doing in order to avoid duplicate efforts and keep everyone in the loop.
The “standup meeting” in software development is a short meeting to catch everyone up on their status. It usually tries to answer three questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you planning to do today?
- Where are you blocked?
The first two are self-explanatory, but the final question is the most relevant comparison. How can the other team members (spouse, parents, in-laws, etc.) help each other to remove obstacles for each other, therefore easing everyone’s workload?
In those rare breaks between tasks and emergencies, parents can talk about what’s working well, what’s not, and how they can improve. This is the sprint retrospective.
Think it’s pretty weird that parenting and software development can be so similar? On first glance, perhaps. However, the key relationships between software development cycles and parenting are ultimately the same:
- Plan for the short and long-term knowing they will be replanning continuously along the way.
- Must be able to adapt on the fly while also juggling multiple tasks of varying priority.
- Focused on outcomes vs. process.
- Constant communication and coordination between parties is required.
My next blog post will focus on what both sides could learn from the other using Agile. Questions or comments? Follow up with us at email@example.com