I’ve recently read a little about Personal Kanban. The first exposure I had to the concept was a parent using Kanban as a weekly chore board at home. I’m pretty sure this one was the first. Since then I have discovered many more. There are also many similar methods that have been in use among home life bloggers for a long time. Today we’re taking a look at the Agile Journey from a different perspective. I’ve mentioned before that Agile is an approach or a state of mind more so then a prescribed set of practices. Because of this the Agilist will naturally approach life situations outside of work in an Agile way. The one that sticks out to me the most is the family road trip.
Like many modern American families we have relatives in multiple states. They are concentrated in Minnesota and Colorado. Neither family has the level of wealth that would make this a regular weekend flight. Truth is, even before the four of us all required tickets we didn’t fly it every time. The cost for driving hovers around the 2-3 airline ticket level depending on what stops are planned and what the meal setup is. Non-stop driving puts the trip around 14 hours. (Non-stop includes gas and bathroom breaks, possibly drive-through’s as well.) Driving non-stop is difficult for two adults but becomes effectively impossible once babies, toddlers, or preschoolers are added.
What does this have to do with Agile? Everything. A long spontaneous road trip with no planning and a strictly planned long road trip with no room for flexibility are both impossible with a family. Specifically a family with young children.
To travel with children requires a certain amount of preparation. Preparing gear requires planning. The average preschooler has not yet learned how to throw together a weekend bag or pack for a week-long trip. This is something that has to be taught to them as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach teaches the teams they work with. Just the simple fact of deciding what to pack for the trip will need a bit of planning. A camping trip load-out is different than one for hotel hopping to visit relatives. It is also prudent to have an idea how long the particular children involved can handle being in the car for any given stretch. Knowing the destination this can translate into knowing a practical place to stop for food and overnights. This is similar to how a Product Owner knows what is wanted from the scrum team both from a big picture view and for the next iteration or two.
Travelling with children requires a certain amount of flexibility. They may want to take more toys than they will need. They might not want to take weather appropriate clothing. Just as a Product Owner may need to adjust their backlog based on needs of the team a parent may find that adjusting their planned load-out makes for a better start to the trip. On the trip itself I can guarantee you that you will make an unplanned restroom stop the first time a 4-year old tells you they have to pee. If your trip includes multiple driving days the time you get to the first stop will either be later than you hoped or at a different place than you thought.
Can a road trip with toddlers be done strictly planned? Sure. There are risks though. Messy clothes and car seats, extreme noise on the inside of the vehicle, and short tempers from the parents come to mind.
Can a road trip with toddlers be done strictly Agile? Ok. There are risks here too. Some trips don’t have much flexibility due to outside constraints. If you’re in a wedding over the weekend you need to be strict enough to make it there for the rehearsal. Cost is another place some planning might be needed. If all planning is done last-minute it might be hard to afford the waterpark hotel on the way home instead of the campground. Time is another. It wouldn’t be good to find yourself three states away from home the Sunday evening before you are due back to work. Some of your planning has to be inflexible.
Parents that have done a road trip with kids know that the plan is a rough guide. It gets you moving in the right direction. It gives the original goal. All parents will be flexible in the details. Yes, ALL parents. Every parent has done Agile while raising their children. The Agilist recognizes this and is likely to be more flexible than most. After all, if the goal is to have fun as a family how strict does the journey, or destination even, really have to be?
Have you found use for an Agile mindset at home? What about specific Agile methods?