From work at home to Agile at home

April 14, 2020

By Tanguy Dossin

Tanguy Dossin is a successful Project Manager at ADNEOM Brussels. He has been involved in many projects and has always applied the Agile principle which focuses on communication and fast adaptation to change. He was regularly told that the Agile framework could be applied to any situation and any project but he only got the opportunity, up till now, to use it on IT projects.

Lately, with the current COVID-19 situation, he has learned to apply it in a whole new context: Here are some evidence that the Agile framework can also be applied at home, using the Deming Cycle, Plan-Do-Check-Act.

When containment was announced on 18/3, I was not afraid of working from home as I used to be doing so for years but I was worried on how all the family will manage to live together on such a long period of time.

When you are working from home, you are most of the time alone, planning your stuff on your own, independently from domestic constraints. On 18/3, things were going to be completely different. My new mission: to make sure the whole family can live together in a friendly atmosphere with the respect of everyone’s work and activities.

We are four at home: My wife and my two sons, 15 & 12 respectively. We are all working from home in front of a PC. My sons have sometimes live video courses and my wife and I have regular skype calls, sometimes with video. Internet bandwidth will suffer.

Also, my sons constantly receive tasks from their teachers and are overwhelmed with information to ingest and digest. Difficult for them to know what to do and when since the list of tasks constantly evolves in content and priority. More importantly, they need to be followed up as teachers could not do that anymore.

Then, all domestic tasks should also be distributed equally to all family members. We are lucky: weather is with us, we will have time for gardening and go out of our home. And not forget any physical activity. Containment is detrimental to physical condition. We have to consider this as well.

Agile framework and more specifically scrum for IT development projects relies on ceremonies:

  • Daily stand-up: discuss daily tasks and short term issues
  • Sprint review: show what has been done during the sprint
  • Sprint planning: plan the workload for newt sprint
  • Sprint retrospective: discuss how to improve our way of working

 A sprint lasts mostly 2 weeks.

We decided to make some adjustment to this plan as we are not in the same situation and it actually relies on the children’s rhythm.

  • Sprint : actually as the workload of the children is changes every day, we decided to use a sprint of ‘one’ day.
  • We combine stand-up, and review in one meeting as the ‘sprint’ is limited to one day. This allows us to organise and plan our day the most efficient way. We, parents AND children explain what we have done the day before, what we will do today and mention the potential calls that would extensively use our bandwidth.

This is great for our teenagers because:

  • They know what to do for one day. Since their daily scope is variable, they are able to re-evaluate priorities and deadlines. And this once a day.
  • The stress of getting new tasks continuously is limited since they evaluate their priorities and tasks every morning.
  • This gives them a structure and they can plan their daily workload. They get autonomous as they organise their day as they want.
  • This puts everybody on the same level as everybody exposes his/her tasks and planning, no one is more important than anyone else. We work as a team although we are performing non related tasks.
  • They have the opportunity to express their feelings and problems if any.

This is also great for parents:

  • We keep control of the work of the children once a day and it gives us more time to work with less interference. Actually, you realise very quickly if they really play the game.
  • We can redirect actions very easily and very fast.
  • We consider our children on an equal level and this makes it easier to ask them other tasks. There is no pure hierarchical parents-children relationship: we are all on the same boat and we need to row all together to move forward.

My wife was sceptical about this approach as we started but you know what? It works!

We organised a retrospective on Friday evening to celebrate the weekend and we asked to write the pros and cons of the system we implemented. Everybody, parents and children. Here below some positive comments:

  • “I like our daily stand-up because I know what I have to do and I do not have to look at my school notifications every minute.”
  • “I like our daily planning because I do not have Dad on my back all day long: he knows what I will do and if I will do it.
  • “There is no big argument between us, the atmosphere is nice. “
  • “I like the balance between work and leisure.”

If you do not believe me, I can provide you with the the written evidence!

This is our solution. I am not a pedo-psychologist and I do not pretend this works for everybody. I rely only on my own dad and professional experience. I hope this can give ideas to others to make their containment lives a bit more comfortable.

According to me, these are the ingredients for success:

  • Give a structure: whatever the age of your children, structure makes our life easier and helps us face the unexpected in a less emotional way.
  • Communicate: we all have different feelings and this is extremely important to express them and explain how you manage these. Your children can help you see another point of view you did not see and vice versa, you can help your children to find a common solution.
  • Do not impose, propose and decide: all children, whatever their age can understand a difficult situation and are able to collaborate to make our lives more comfortable. Problems and difficulties makes them grow and acquire maturity faster. This is the trickiest part as this is a delicate balance between “authority” and “equality”.

Tanguy Dossin, Project Facilitator at ADNEOM Brussels

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This post was written by mcochet