How Agile Helped Change My Children's Lives
13 May 2016
This is one of the most difficult and most rewarding articles that I could write at this stage in my life. It is a very rewarding life, as I am a husband and proud father to two beautiful children: Lauren (age ten) and Jackson (age eight). Each of my children is unique in his and her own way and they challenge themselves every day.
It was about a year ago when we, as parents (myself in particular), may have allowed them to "self-organize" their lives a little too much. After many conversations wit h an Agile coach, I realized that my children live an Agile life. How can a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old require a level of agility in their lives to help them achieve their goals? Each of my children uses Agile principles and practices in different ways to accomplish his or her goals. These experiences have made a significant impact on how I constantly encourage my teams in a professional setting as well.
Lauren: Breaking down the softball pitch to deliver more strikes
At first glance, my daughter, Lauren, doesn't appear like someone who requires some of the basic rules of Agile in her life. As a straight-A student with her nose in a book 24/7, I knew that grades were one thing I didn't have to worry about. If you take away the books and the politeness that she shows on the surface, however, you get a feisty, competitive little southpaw who steps onto the softball field with one goal in mind: to mow you down in three pitches, leaving no mercy as regards how small you are or how inexperienced you may be.
Now back up a season or two, and you would see more frustration than anything, because at times she couldn't throw a strike. This is where Agile principles and practices came into play. We broke down the mechanics of a softball pitch into smaller chunks. We then worked on each component to ensure that it was efficient before putting all the parts together. As she saw her own improvement and success materialize, I realized that this was the same thing that my teams do at work. Teams break down features into stories and stories into tasks that they can handle and deliver efficiently and with quality. Through her hard work, my daughter realized that by becoming more efficient in each delivery component, she could and would deliver more strikes and put her team in a better position to celebrate. That final aspect — celebration — is something we should all try to do more of.
Jackson: Assigning story points to homework to ensure completion of tasks
My son, Jackson, is his own person. Yet he still applies the same types of Agile tips and tricks to help him get through his tasks so that he can feel a sense of accomplishment. In each sport he plays, we take the same approach as we did for Lauren, except his experience in Agile doesn't come from sports. His experiences come from life in general. When you see your child struggle, it takes every ounce of life out of you. To this day, I struggle with things, but I can tell you that he and I celebrate often now.
Jackson is just like me in many ways. He has been identified as an individual with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). This is not a disease and not something to be ashamed of having. Think of it this way: ADHD is like having the brain of a Ferrari with the brakes of a bicycle. The way his minds works is that he tries to take in and process everything he can, sometimes more than most kids, but he can't slow down the mind to process things. This accelerated thinking causes children, and adults like me, to lose focus. I would say I could compare him to a product owner who is constantly trying to prioritize the backlog in his mind all day long. So how do you overcome all of this? Patience is the first step, but how does one then incorporate patience into their professional life?
I've found that prioritizing stories has always been a good place to start. Next, break down the stories into smaller chunks. In addition to these techniques, we encouraged Jackson to assign story points to his homework so that he can understand which items are more complex then others, as well as allot the appropriate amount of time to ensure that he finishes his tasks to help celebrate his success. Children who are able to celebrate successes build confidence. The successes give them the ability to take on more and challenge themselves to continue to grow.
Applying Agile principles to make life simpler
As I finish my thoughts, I reflect again on the fact that this is one of the most difficult and most rewarding articles I could write at this stage in my life. It's hard to see my children struggle, as no parent wants to see their children struggle. However, to have my children grasp a concept and use it this early in their lives gives me a great deal of satisfaction, because they are learning how to make their lives simpler and more efficient.
I always tell them that the harder they work today the easier tomorrow will become. Using some of the methods of Agile has shown them how that is possible — how they can take life, break it down, celebrate the things in front of them, and continue to push themselves to do more and celebrate with others. My son has gone from getting N's (Needs Improvement) on his report card to marks of S+ and VG (Very Good). He now looks forward to going to school every day. As for my daughter — well, she still has her nose stuck in a book. But if you step into that batter's box, know one thing when she looks at you. It's her versus you, and you don't have a shot!
Those two kids are my success story.
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