First, what is scrum? In the field of software development, scrum falls under the agile umbrella. Scrum.org defines the specific scrum methodology as a framework to solve complex problems while delivering the highest possible value.
The truth is, we both learned this framework from our employer — hubby in the role of a software developer; and I in the part of a product owner.
After a particularly ridiculous fight about a cucumber (yes, the vegetable), we knew we needed to find a better communication framework.
#1: Recognize one-size-fits-no-one
I’ve always believed that one-size-fits-no-one. This aligns with the concept in scrum of starting with the most minimum viable version of something.
Why create something with all the bells and whistles if nobody wants all that extra fluff?
In our case, this manifested as our kids’ complaints about the three home-cooked meals a day that we were cooking on demand. Apparently, leftover pork chops for lunch are not as good as chicken nuggets from the school cafeteria. Who knew?
This was the problem hubby and I set out to solve together. How could we maximize the user experience (AKA our kids) without over-preparing?
Problem Statement: Meal planning and execution was a high effort with minimal value to the end-consumers.
Scrum Framework →Assign Value: We decided to use the concept of assigning “points” (another critical aspect in scrum) to the different components that make up our meals. These aren’t like Weight Watcher points. Points in scrum are a way of coming to an agreement on the effort it takes to complete something. The goal is not to exceed our agreed-upon velocity.
For example, if we know we only have 30 minutes to prepare dinner, that is our velocity. We need to understand what protein, vegetable, and grain combinations equate to that total duration.
We went through our list of favorite meat and side dishes and assigned each one a point value. The goal is to mix-and-match meal combinations that never exceed our velocity.
Value Delivered: Using this simple valuation system empowered us to make meal planning decisions that still created delicious and healthy meals with minimal effort.
- Think about areas you might be investing too much in with minimal return on that investment (ROI).
- Remove the “fluff” and observe if it feels more balanced and perhaps even more rewarding.
#2: Get real about listening
Our first application of scrum techniques worked so well that we decided to keep going (iterations, true scrum fashion).
We had successfully stopped “over-developing” our daily meals, but we were still putting a lot of effort into figuring out what recipes our family would all enjoy.
Chalk it up to picky children and a mom who’s measuring portions and food-selection conscious. I decided to stop making my whole family eat like cavemen (yes, Paleo, I’m talking about you) and instead gathered feedback from my little end-users.
Problem Statement: Members of the family have varying requirements for meal satisfaction.
Scrum Framework → Feedback Loop: The scrum framework allows teams to collaborate and continuously adapt. To use that same mentality, I started with my toughest customer. I sat down with my nine-year-old son and asked him to page through a cookbook (OK, it was a healthy cookbook) with me and point to the food he might like to eat.
Unsurprisingly, there weren’t many vegetables on the list. This led to a side discussion with hubby on acceptance criteria:
Given our child is served a healthy dinner
When he eats all of his grains and meat
Then he doesn’t have to eat his veggies
Based on his feedback and his nutritional needs, hubby and I decided that eating two-thirds of his meal was an acceptable outcome.
Value Delivered: We stopped arguing over finished plates, and hopefully, this alleviated some meal-time stress for my son, as well. And because we spent time grooming a list of recipes he will eat, I also have a backlog of dishes I know he will like.
- Listen to your loved ones. If they do not explicitly tell you what they want and need, make time to create an inventory of their preferences.
- Understand your acceptable outcomes if you plan on compromising. What does success look like? Be clear and aligned on this.
#3: Make it easy to empower
The final step in bringing this all together for our family was empowering our kids to make decisions. Hubby and I pivoted our parental authority to resemble the servant leadership of a scrum facilitator.
We encouraged the kids to participate in decision-making now that they were full-time members of the work-from-home-office ecosystem during their homeschooling.
Selfishly, empowering them to self-serve also prevented silly interruptions during conference calls. Their requests for a snack in the middle of one of my daily stand-ups were usually met by me saying, “fine, you can have another snack.” Only to be met with a whiny reply of, “well, what do we have?”
We decided to create a way for the kids to quickly “grab” items from our meal backlog.
Problem Statement: The kids’ and parents’ break schedules were not aligned. The kids needed to understand what options were available for them and self-service.
Scrum Framework → Visual Management: Visual management boards are another tool in scrum that drives alignment with the team. We decided to set up our own family whiteboard.
I created a system that included all the food categories (protein, grains, vegetables, fruits, etc.) and what options I had purchased from the grocery store that week. The board was visually displayed in the pantry.
We taught our kids to “grab” their selections for the day by putting a color-coded dry-erase indicator by which food type they want in each category. Each kid was empowered to make whatever decisions they wanted, as long as they had an appropriate mix of items.
Hubby and I could then prep lunches and snacks ahead of time to meet each of their preferences.
Value Delivered: This system focused on preparation and eliminated last-minute hangry melt-downs during our non-stop conference calls. The kids felt empowered to make choices, and the parents could commit to customized options and eliminate dependencies on work breaks aligning with school breaks.
- Create a place where everyone in your family can “mix and match” preferences by making it a visual practice.
- Use preparation to your advantage to eliminate last-minute roadblocks that may come in the form of time constraints.