Managing Your Household (Part 2)

We received a strong response to our recent post “Managing Your Household – Part 1”.

The idea that to put the world in order, we must first put our family in order, seems to have struck a chord.

In that article, I invited you to consider the following question:

“What if you thought of your household as a small business?”

Next, I am going to flip that approach, as follows:

“What if you thought of your household as a practice lab for your professional development?”

Could your children turn out to be some of your best coaches, offering you candid insights into how your behaviour occurs for other people…?”

The Agile Family

Last week my wife Azita came across Bruce Feiler, author of “The Secrets of Happy Families” via his 2013 TED Talk entitled “Agile programming – for your family”.

Bruce proposes a radical idea: To deal with the stress of modern family life, go agile.

Inspired by agile software programming, Feiler introduces family practices which encourage flexibility, bottom-up idea flow, constant feedback and accountability. One surprising feature: Kids pick their own punishments.

You may have heard about “Agile” in passing but not taken a moment to pause.

Agile In Brief

In February 2001, 17 software developers met at the Snowbird resort in Utah to discuss software development methods. They new the software industry needed a fundamental shift in values and approach. They went on to publish the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

Here’s a quick 2 min video that explains the 4 Cornerstone Values of the Agile approach:

Learning Begins at Home – Creating An Agile Family

We know the importance of laying strong foundations for our children within their home life, that set them up well to thrive at school and in their working years to come.

However, the converse also applies – we can use our family as a place to test, asses and develop new techniques for how we manage and lead teams at the office. For many executives, exercising leadership at home (under a shared leadership model) can be more complex and challenging than leading at work (where reporting lines and limits of authority are more formalised).

At the core of the approach, Bruce proposes is the idea of establishing a regular weekly family meeting. This could be either breakfast, lunch or dinner on Sundays for example, when your family already comes together.

In his TED Talk, Bruce identifies 3 critical questions you should ask and answer as a family during each weekly meeting, using the principles of agile management:

  1. What worked well in our family this week?
  2. What didn’t work well in our family this week?
  3. What will we agree to work on in the week ahead?

I’d encourage you to put 20 minutes aside to watch Bruce’s talk – either on your commute, lunch break or after hours with your life partner.

Another central idea Bruce covers in his talk is the idea of introducing a checklist for your children’s morning routine. The power of ticking things off a list to help children become more self-managing and parents stay calmer is a very practical illustration of the principles of agile in motion. Having previously developed and deployed my own version of this concept over the past year, he was preaching to the already converted on that front.

Even if you do not have any children in your house, you could also easily use these principles for how you manage your household – be that shared accommodation or a couple.

The Secrets of Happy Families

According to Amazon, New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler has drawn up a blueprint for modern families – a new approach to family dynamics, inspired by cutting-edge techniques gathered from experts in the disciplines of science, business, sports, and the military.

The result is a funny and thought-provoking playbook for contemporary families, with more than 200 useful strategies, including: the right way to have family dinner, what your mother never told you about sex (but should have), and why you should always have two women present in difficult conversations…

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