Life in a new land

So, we’ve moved to a new land.

My job took us 1000 miles south, and of the many wondrous people and things we left behind, one of them was our Scrum Wall. The wall of cards around which we met every morning, quickly and efficiently listing our accomplishments, goals and roadblocks. The cards that cataloged the dozens of chores, homework assignments and recurring “stuff” we needed to get done before the week was out.

We need it back.

Six months in to a new school and new patterns of life, we are adjusting quite well. The kids have friends, who come and go most weekend nights for sleepovers. They are doing well enough at school.

Increasingly, as the new becomes the familiar, we have all begun to long for something. We are getting increasingly tired of remembering the night before a paper is due. There’s a volcano project due sometime in the next few weeks. Who’s day for litter box is it? It’s wearing on us. We miss our Scrum Wall. The order it gave to our day. For me, it gave insight into the kids’ lives. Now, I have no idea (sorry to say) who has a quiz to study for and how many nights one of them has Science homework.

Our old Scrum Wall was a true thing of beauty. I searched the web for museum quality cork. A handyman helped me install it on plywood and frame it in trim. It looked like it came with the house. And it stayed there.

Our new place is a rental, and we can’t just go modifying the joint to our needs. Even so, something must be done. Next week, the kids are off from school. Before they return, we’ve committed to having something in place. I’m going to find the painter’s tape and go back to Iteration 001. Details to follow, but I expect a smooth transition back to daily standups and weeks better measured.

Stay tuned.


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ScrumforKids Q&A i

We were delighted to be sent some questions in regard to Scrum For Kids, and certainly welcome them!

We plan to answer them in topic groups or through individual content posts:

When you load up your board on Sunday evening, I assume everyone participates in the tasks to be “loaded” by considering regular recurring tasks, referring to a calendar perhaps of the week to come and any special things/homework due during the week?  Do you also include personal “goals” for the week that the kids determine?

Excellent observations all.  Certainly, each team member considers the upcoming week in terms of calendar.  However, the emphasis of the weekly story board focuses more on the day of week items are due rather than the date.  (The day of the week a task is expected to be completed is published on every task card of the weekly board.)  Recurring assignment tasks are designated due dates as assigned by our children’s classroom teachers.  We adjust the day of the week an assignment is due if a holiday or member’s absence/ illness interrupts the normal iteration of a week, but usually recurring task cards emphasize the day of week a task must be complete (which allows cards to be reused week after week.)

We do include the date and day of the week ad-hoc or one-off tasks are due in the case of long term projects, tests or quizzes.  Likewise, we indicate the calendar date and day of week a task needs to be complete when it is a subset of a long term project with an independent deliverable date (outline, research sources due, complete study guide, etc.).

We also use ad-hoc cards to articulate team member goals as needed.  These can be personal, academic or family goals.  Examples on our board have included, “Be a servant leader,” “Maintain family values at school,” “Be a good sister,” “Turn in completed homework as soon as I get to school,” and “Record all assignments in assignment notebook.”  If the goal targets a critical behavior that the team member wants to monitor daily, we make daily cards of the target behavior for the board to underscore it is a recurring behavioral/attitudinal task required to support the family team.  For example, “Be a good sister,” ran for three weeks on our board last Spring. Each girl in our family was obligated to move (and justify) five Monday-Friday task cards.

In addition to recurring task cards and team member ad hoc cards, we’ve used the school’s homework web site to cut and snip relevant one-off cards for items such as, “Read chapters 1-4,” and “Complete Math Sheet 4a,” etc. that we then posted directly onto the board.  We also copy and snip announcements that detail one-off tasks that come home from schools and post permission slips and practice logs on the board to be completed by the team as they move their cards.

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So, where are your cards?

Astute readers have noticed that the board holds cards for kids, but no adults. What’s gives? Are we

Surely, I believe Peace & I could benefit from the structure Scrum For Kids offers. Adults have the same challenges as kids in the course of a week, and most would benefit from the added support and accountability.  Our decision to stay removed from the team of “workers” was intentional.

The board isn’t ours, it’s theirs. The kids’ exclusive ownership empowers our children to manage their own tasks, and goes a long way towards their buy-in.

The Standup brings the team news on what the kids are doing among very similar tasks and what hurdles they face.  We felt it could cloud the process for the parents to also give updates on their vastly different chores.

Also, I feel it’s our role to shepherd them through this process, not be a team member in it. When Scrum is used in the workplace, the most ideal settings are those where the ScrumMaster is able to focus on moving the team through the process and remove roadblocks. It’s cleaner and avoids any potential conflict of interests.

All that said, Peace & I think about setting up another board for ourselves. Tracking items like picking up dry cleaning and publishing blog posts would be great. The “nice” thing about tasks like that are that they don’t really *have* to be done in a given week. The critical tasks, like picking the kids up from school, seem to get done without the process overlay.

That’s what I think. Hope it helps.

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The Board

As a software developer, I learned Scrum in the workplace. The first time I went to the board and moved one of my cards to Done, I felt a little flutter in the reward center of my heart and I knew Scrum was for me.

The board is the heart of Scrum For Kids. We gather round it every morning to recap the past and plan the future. It tells us at a glance if we’re on track this week, or falling behind in our work goals and responsiblities.

The board is divided into three columns, with a row for each child. Generic column headers are: “Not Started”, “In Progress” and “Done”. At the start of the week, all cards start at the far left, in “Not Started”. As the week progresses, team members move their cards rightward to “Done” as tasks get completed. Row headers are nameplates for each child.

Posts will follow describing how to customize the board for your family and making the kids true owners of its creation and upkeep.

clean board



Cards represent things that need to be done.

They are tasks and include recurring homework assignments, studying for quizzes and tests, practicing musical instruments, and many household chores that might be forgotten or lost in the mix if not tracked.

Information on the card includes: the child’s name, the subject, the task, & the day of week it is due. One’s name is useful so we know who is responsible. There is another benefit, however. As one of my favorite teachers taught me: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language Dale Carnegie. Seeing their name on a card gives kids ownership of the card, and the task. That’s one of the key benefits of this process. Bestowing ownership to kids of what they are expected to do get us, the parents, out from underneath the constant chasing.

Scrum For Kids primarily deals with recurring tasks. We know that there will be Math homework once per week, violins are practiced 4 times per week, the litter box is cleaned 7 times per week, etc. We keep plenty of blank cards handy too, because there are always unexpected one-off assignment and projects that need to be tracked as well.


Real Life Scrum for Kids Moments i

One of the realities of parenting is the reality that reality can interfere with the best laid plans and make phooey.

It was one of those kinds of weeks in our home this week.  Much phooey… in the form of a beast of a GI bug.  The Boy and I were down and low for three days, and Joe was out of town at a client sight.  Between the two of us, we had about the strength of green tea, one of the only things either of us could keep down.  Naturally, however, the family machine churned as actively as our tummies, and there were still assignments to do, girls to ferry to school and soccer, lunches to pack, and jobs to be done.

As serendipity would have it, however, The Boy didn’t begin to feel ill until Monday night, and I was spared until Tuesday morning.  We load our family board on Sunday evenings.  As such, while I dragged myself through the minimum of things I had to attend to in order to keep the girls actionable while The Boy stayed in bed, the girls kept moving cards.  They knew what they had to do, and took great satisfaction getting their work done without saying a word to me about it.  Even through the haze of flu-funk, I watched with pride as they supported one another.

Frankly, I could have skipped stand up meeting this morning.  All I wanted to do was drive the girls to school and get myself back home and into bed.   Their erect postures as they faced the board, however, broadcast loud and clear that they had things to report!  The Oldest Girl was a fountain of productivity, moving card after card, and clearly articulating her plans for more of the same this afternoon.  The Baby, not to be outdone, proudly explained that she was able to use a stool to prop up her violin book so that she could practice by herself.  She did all of her songs twice.  The Middle Child began her report strong, confidently moving cards, and then said, “Oh, no!  Oh!  My math isn’t checked!”

It’s my job to check her Math before she turns it in.  I didn’t even know if she had completed it.  I said, “That’s OK, honey, we still have time, can you go get it?”

She was back in less than a minute with beautifully computed Math homework.  She had completed it so accurately and well that it took only three minutes for me to check it.  I marveled as they picked up their backpacks and lunches by the door and marched out together.  It was like that Staples button, “That was easy!”

Later this afternoon when I picked her up from soccer, she began to tell me about her day.  She explained that one of her classmates didn’t have his Math homework.  She said, “He didn’t have any of it; he totally forgot all about it.”

I told her that was a shame and that I bet that he felt badly about that.

“Yeah,” she began with a hint of a self satisfied smile, and this is exactly what she said, “too bad he doesn’t have a board.”

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Truly Scrum-pcious!

Managing a Scrum Wall and running a home are feats of a similar nature.  Both systems juggle multiple parts that demand flexibility (and a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.)  As such, Scrum methodology is a natural partner for family use in the home.

Scrum For Kids is a system that is flexible enough to be adapted within any family network.  In fact, its core adaptability is what makes it such a viable tool for all age groups of children and types of learners.   As parents, we love how it complements the different strengths and personalities of our family team members.   This is true for the children as well as Joe and me.  Joe syncs with the geek squad value of making cards through mail merge and retrospective analysis.  I plug into the intrinsic movement of the system and how completely actionable it makes us as a family team.

Scrum For Kids creates this sense of action among teams because its methodology orbits projects completely designed and developed by its users.   The content of the Scrum Wall is an exclusive family publication about what the members of a home are doing academically, socially, familially and extracurricularly.  Quite simply, it’s all about them!  Scrum For Kids invites the kids to manage and take complete ownership and responsibility for the tasks required of them by their schools and family life.  Children become developers and learn how to write stories, load their boards and move their cards.  This allows them all the accomplishment of their victories and lessons from any shortcomings.   Stand up meetings unite the family team so that no one member or his cards are more valuable than another.  Every child shares the same stage and his work is a critical component of clearing the family board.  This common goal among families builds relationships and productivity.  I thrill to think my kids feel we are an able family of Doers that can pull together to accomplish anything from building the Eiffel Tower to scale to the dreaded cleaning of the garage.  I deeply value the spirit of teamwork Scrum For Kids has seeded among our children.  Among its many other assets, it’s created a structure to help us root for each other.

That team confidence allows Scrum For Kids to also help reduce family and individual anxiety about schoolwork, because it breaks larger projects up into smaller more actionable stories.  For example, one of our kids is a more natural speller than another.  As such, weekly Spelling homework for her is easily subdivided into two task cards, “Spelling Homework,” and “Study for Spelling Quiz.”  Another one of the kids, however, feels better supported when the task is further broken down into four task cards:  “Spelling:  Writing Part A,” “Spelling, Writing Part B,” “Study for Spelling Quiz:  First Half of List,” “Study for Spelling Quiz:  Second Half of List.”   The agile nature of Scrum for Kids allows each of the children to subdivide their projects into smaller pieces that are easier for them to manage.   Stand up meetings ensure that team members are on the same page even if they accomplish their deliverables differently. This also generates a cross pollination of family strategies.  Team members can see the positive results of different family approaches and pull from those stories when they encounter similar projects and challenges.

Last winter during a presentation of Scrum For Kids to an area Agile users group, I was teased that I was a Scrum proselytizer .  Well, I don’t know if all that’s true, but I do think Scrum For Kids is Truly Scrum-cious!

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The Standup Meeting

As both Joe and I mentioned, every morning, the family team meets in front of the task wall for a standup meeting. During this brief meeting, each family team member reports his progress, articulates his plan, identifies his lids, and moves his cards. The pattern of the meeting goes like this:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What do intend to do today?
  3. What are your roadblocks to completing those goals?

As such, here is a standard recipe for a standup meeting (and some helpful guidelines we have identified for our own kids):

  1. Set a time for the meeting each morning.  Publish it.  Commit to it.  Safeguard that time each day for the family team meeting.  Age-able kids are responsible to report to the task wall on time for stand up.
    • (Agreeing ahead of time when to meet avoids many logistical tussles as you herd cats to school each morning!)
  2. Family team reports to standup on time.
    • (In our house, on time means standing up, with shoes on, backpacks and lunches packed and by the door, facing the task wall and ready to report on their progress.)
  3. Scrum Master calls meeting and identifies order of team member reports.
    • (We alternate between designating order and a call for volunteers.  We like to mix it up.  birth order, reverse birth order, best smile, most eager, most obviously concerned, etc.)
  4. Individual team members report progress to the team and moves his cards one by one until the entire team has had an opportunity to present.
  5. As individual team members identify lids, the Scrum Master makes suggestions to aid their task completion, or sets up a time to pull up with a team member at a designated time after the meeting for further problem-solving discussion.
  6. After team members report, family team acknowledges and celebrates accomplishments.
    • (We do Quality Claps, yes, we even have a Quality Clap song, high fives, hugs, and “Atta boy/girl!” variants.  We end each meeting with a family cheer, all hands in, just like at a U10 soccer game, ‘1, 2, 3, Gooooooooo, Meeeeaaaadddeeessss!”

Quick Miscellaneous Guidelines:

  • Keep it brief and keep it positive!
  • No apologies.  The standup is a verbal snapshot.  It’s a point on a completion map.  All we report in a stand up is “I am here.”
  • Avoid punitive discussions during standup.  Safeguard space to identify lids and problem solve.
  • It’s okay to ask, “What’s your plan?” or “What will happen if that doesn’t work”  This allows the kids to take responsibility and identify outcomes based on their choices.
  • We stand up during standup.  (We avoid sitting, leaning and slouching… not because we’re soliders, but because it helps keep things brief and positive.)
  • No blaming.  No finger pointing.  Standup meetings identify where team members are in the process of moving their cards.  Team members are where they are.
  • No criticizing, complaining whining, or as our boy would say, “sobbing.”
  • We monitor the board between meetings.  Nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I notice you still have three music cards to move,” on a Thursday.
  • We refer kids to board between meetings.  “What are you doing?  What should you be doing?”
  • We establish guidelines to help kids get things done.  For example, we have committed to practice musical instruments before afternoon snack.

kids at standup meeting

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Scrum for Kids Lightning Round ii

What age group of children can use Scrum For Kids?

Youths from ages 2-99 can benefit from using Scrum For Kids!  We have used it in our three year now.  Our youngest just turned 5, and she wins the blue ribbon for our most enthusiastic, joyful card mover on the family team.  Even at 2 and 3, she understood that her contribution to our family model was important, and that she was able to successfully add to the value of our family experience by doing her part.  This contagious type of intrinsic accountability is one of the many features that makes Scrum For Kids so rewarding to the children.  It reforms the family heierchy into a cohesive team that is in it, to win it together!  Our family team wants to move cards!  We want to rock the week!  We get excited to clear the board!  The board simultaneously helps even the youngest of children capture the sense of satisfaction of a job well and independently done as it showcases how those jobs are integral components to the success of the family team.  It’s a wonderful visual of how much our family needs the others’ skills and support.  As family and team members, we Standup together to, “Get ‘ir done!”

I love how it helps us to be accountable to one another.  I love how it stages our successes and models value across generations.  I love how relevant it keeps us one to the other.  It even has deepened the way my children pray for each other.  They know specifically the demands and lids of their family team and genuinely and spontaneously pray for the success of team members.  I don’t know about you, but that’s weep for joy time for this Mamma!

What does it mean to, “Move cards,” or ‘Move your cards?”

Task cards comprise the primary artifact of the Scrum Wall.  Task cards name the duty and responsible party of the weekly family board.  Task cards identify what needs to be done by the family team to clear the board.  Tasks cards cycle through a categorized process identified by the family board.  Essentially, there is a “To Do,” “In Process” and “Completed” column on each family board.  Individual team members have their own rows horizontal to the vertical column categories.  During Standup Meetings, team members identify where they are in their completion cycle by orally reporting their position in regard to each task, and moving their task cards from “To Do, ” to “In Progress,” and eventually “Completed.”  Physically moving tasks cards across the row and through the identified completion categories represent actual work product completed by each team member.

What does it mean to “Clear the board?”

Ah, my friends, this is the sweet, honey pot moment when the family team has accomplished all its designated tasks and deliverables on time.

What is a deliverable?

A deliverable is when a task card links to a concrete and time stamped, tangible product.  For example, writing a five paragraph essay about the conflicts of a play is a deliverable because in order to move the card, the team member must create and publish essay that is turned in on time.  Tasks not links to deliverables either require action or attention, but not a finished product.  Such nondeliverable cards might read:  Study for “Vocab Quiz,” or “Practice Trombone.”

Do kids resist the Scrum For Kids process?

No.  Really and unequivably, no.  I not only have used Scrum For Kids for three years in our home, but also in the service of other families as an educational consultant over the same interval.  Kids like to know what they have to do and feel great when they accomplish those jobs.  It feels good to move cards.  It validates the kids’ efforts to have the Standup Meeting forum to shine a light on their hard work, the industry of their study, how much they rocked it, uh-huh, and look at me, I moved four cards last night!  It’s rock star time, baby, complete with stage and mike.

Another thing that makes Scrum For Kids so groovy for the children is that it gives a rewarding structure for parents to connect with their school lives and responsibilities.  What better message can we as parents send our kids about their work other than, “What you do is incredibly important and relevant to our family life.  We respect the demands on your time and attention are many.  We want to dedicate this space in our home, this whole wall, as a communication center about your lives.  We want it to be a place that keeps us all connected to what you value, what you must accomplish and what you’ve done.  If there are lids, we are going to join hands and lift them.  If you need assistance, you can call on the expertise of this family team every day.  We are right here to support you as you learn how to rock it, baby, rock it and write your own music and sing your own songs.!”

Why wives/parent partners like Scrum For Kids:

Since we began daily use of Scrum For Kids, Joe has NEVER been more involved in the daily lives of our children.  He used to have this kind of hazy, amorphous sense of what was happening in their school work and extracurricular rhythms, but now he is completely invested and an essential participant.  Scrum For Kids has not only made him more their partner, but more MY partner.

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Scrum For Kids Lightning Round

One of the things I most appreciate about Agile process it its iterative nature. In that way Scrum, just like Trix, was made for who kids are today.  Change (growth) is the primary function of children.  These little creatures have full time jobs growing up.  Add the responsibilities that all our homes and schools ask of them, and it is easy for children and their families to become overwhelmed by extension.

I offer some initial thoughts about Scrum For Kids from the perspective of a mom and teacher.  I am not and never have been a geek.  If you want the analytics, or retrospective of user productivity, or a pretty pie-chart graph, please see Joe.  I will speak to my constant point of hope and focus:  the intentional co-architecture of children (who in our house every day pick up their own hammers to help construct their characters and pictures of quality and value).

What is a Scrum Wall?

A scrum wall is a designated space in your home that stages the family’s tasks communication center.  This is where tasks are identified and date stamped.  The Scrum Wall in our house is a cork wall in the laundry room.  This works very well for us as we most commonly enter and leave the house via this room, and, as such, is a constant point of family movement and focus.  Each team member has a space on the wall or board that shows his required tasks on cards.  Cards are moved sequentially to correspond with where the child is in relation to its completion:  Not Started, In Progress or Done.  Family Standup Meetings regularly call the group’s attention to where each team member is in his process, identify lids that roadblock task completion and celebrate accomplishments.  We have Standup every morning before the kids leave for school.

Also called:  the wall, the board, scrum wall, task board

What is a card?

Cards describe tasks and are placed on the Scrum Wall.  We use business-card-sized card stock for our wall.  Task cards or cards identify the team member responsible for the task, the task, and the required completion date.

We generally have two types of cards on our board:  iterative and ad hoc.  Iterative cards identify tasks that repeat such as study for spelling quiz, spelling quiz, practice violin.  Ad hoc cards identify unique tasks that are assigned to team members and do not recur, for example, Native American Project, Prepare Persuasive Speech, etc.  We also use ad hoc cards to hold invitations to birthday parties and special events.

What is a Standup Meeting?

A Standup Meeting is when the family team meets to discuss where each member is on their tasks.  In our house, we iterate weekly.  That is to say, we load the board anew each Sunday night and run that board through the week.  We meet in front of the board every morning before the kids go to school.  As the name implies, we stand during Standup.  Later, I’ll tell you more specific protocol our family employs, but for now the basics are these:  During a Standup Meeting our family faces the board, listens to each person as they take his turn updating the team on his progress and moves his cards, offer support if helpful when lids are identified or problems encountered and celebrate each others accomplishments.  We often clap or high five each other.  Our meetings are brief and we strive for a consistently positive and upbeat, and fluid tone. We end our meeting with a family cheer.

What are Lids?

Lids are difficulties or roadblocks encountered by team members that slow down or impede task completion.  Examples of such roadblocks might include lack of supplies, a soccer practice the same night before a major test, being sick, etc.  Once identified, it is the Scrum Master’s role to help alleviate lids for the team.   In our house, Joe is the Scrum Master.

What is a Scrum Master?

A Scrum Master is the party identified to run Standup Meetings and oversee the task completion by the team.  S/he is responsible for addressing team lids, keeping Standups brief and positive, recognizing team accomplishments, organizing team celebrations and facilitating team retrospectives.  It is the Scrum Master’s job to help kids use the wall as a tool of independence and power.

What does iterative mean?

Quite simply iterate means to say or do again, to repeat.  We classify Scrum For Kids as an iterative process because it manages tasks we must do and do again.  This core idea of Scrum For Kids identifies the tasks our children must do and repeat, be it brushing teeth, emptying the dishwasher or reading four chapters of an assigned novel.  Scrum For Kids creates a family communication board that helps kids see what tasks they are responsible for completing and by when they must complete them.

Furthermore, Scrum For Kids is iterative in the real way our children themselves are iterative, i.e.; constantly growing and changing.   As children and families grow, so do the tasks demanded of them.  For this reason, the Scrum Wall changes in response to the correspond to the age of the children and the tasks asked of them.

What kind of learners benefit from Scrum For Kids?

All types of learners benefit from Scrum for Kids.  This wonderful benefit is one of the things that gives Scrum more juice than oranges.  It works for kids where they are and speaks to who they are in their own learning language to complement their own strengths.

Check it out:

  • Linguistic (“word smart”) learner: cards publish tasks, responsible party and due date, members report their progress in daily Stand Up Meeting
  • Logical-mathematical (“number/reasoning smart”) learner: cards show quantity of tasks to be completed and measure interval of time to accomplish each task
  • Spatial (“picture smart”) learner: cards are spatially displayed to create a weekly word picture of tasks assigned to a family team
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic (“body smart”) learner: cards are physically moved as a task goes through completion cycle, family stands for Stand Up Meeting, family cheers and high fives
  • Musical (“music smart”) learner: Family cheer, musical instrument practice cards
  • Interpersonal (“people smart”) learner: Teams meet daily to celebrate each other’s accomplishments in Stand Up Meetings
  • Intrapersonal (“self smart”) learner: Individuals have constant point-of reference on the board for self-monitoring, study, reflection, planning and celebration.
  • Naturalist (“nature smart”) learner: Interative process parallels seasonal progression of calendar year as well as the life cycle of plants and animals.  The constant focus of the Scrum Wall and Biology are the same:  life systems.

Why do Moms like Scrum For Kids?

Long answer short, it gets me off my kids backs and out of the role of bad cop in need of a donut fix.

Why do Kids like Scrum For Kids?

Long answer short, it gets our parents off our backs and offers us some freedom and independence in our own school and extracurricular responsibilities.

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