How to organize your family with Kanban?

12 Sep 2018

How to organize your family with Kanban?
Running a household with two small children can be a challenging exercise. My girlfriend and I both work full-time, but besides that, we want to spend as much time as possible with our 4-year-old son and 8 months old baby daughter. We moved last year, and our new house is still going through some major renovations like the garden this summer.

So... time is our main issue. How to get as much free time as possible when you extract work, household and other projects. The answer is pretty obvious. Most of us are working in an environment that also tries to cope with the same issues as we face at home. It almost seems logical these days to work with boards filled with post-its, backlogs and impediments to structure all our tasks in an Agile iterative context. When one of the EBS colleagues shared her story during the training Storytelling, I was triggered and surprised I didn’t come up with it myself. She had started with a Kanban workflow and it worked like a charm! Come to think of it, we were already in a sort of premature kind of Kanban way of working.

Collecting bills and shop lists on the fridge like many do, my girlfriend also makes the perfect Product Owner. It seems logical to further structure this.

So, like a good recipe, what do we need to start cooking?

  • Wall space: central location. The best place is the fridge, but the space is limited
  • Board: preferably a white board, but any board will do
  • Post-its: different colours for different features (renovations, groceries, …)
  • Sharpies: or other pens with a thicker point
  • Tape: for making ‘swim lanes’ per person in your family • Create the following columns on your board: to do, (blocked: optional), doing and done

The “blocked” column is where you place your tasks where you can’t progress and are blocked (duh!) by something or someone else. This can also mean that you are waiting for an answer to be able to progress. Be careful and don’t put too many tasks in “doing”. Limit your Work In Progress to 2 or 3 tasks per person at the same time. If you have an available slot, take something out of your “backlog” or “to do”.
How to Kanban?
Start planning and create your backlog with all the tasks you come up with. Repeat and evaluate the planning procedure every week (or two weeks) to keep it updated.
If you want to, you can structure your planning further in a Scrum context and add sprints (1 or 2-week planning) and even quarterly (QAP) planning to it. Here you can define what the Goal is of a Sprint or the QAP, and what the priorities/values are. This combination of Kanban and Scrum is called Scrumban, which combines the easy and natural flow of Kanban with the structure and deadlines of Scrum. A daily meeting (in the morning if possible in your planning) is also a crucial way of informing your family members on your actions that day.
Why would you Kanban at home?
The power of running Agile at home is exactly the same as running Agile at a company level:

  • Visual representation of all the tasks
  • Overall transparency where work eff ort is going
  • Tracking progress in real-time
  • Focus time for work (no interruptions)
  • Organizational (family) alignment
  • Delivering highest-priority and highest-value first

Do try this at home! 😊

Should you have any questions, contact Tom Leers via – he would love to help you out!