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We have different learning styles and what works for one, may or may not work for another. While some people grasp techniques and concepts very quickly, some take time to consume and process. I fall in the latter category most of the time. For me, to fully or even partially understand a new concept or technique, I need to apply it in various situations and see if the results match up to what I expect.

While trying to understand the new ways of working, I decided to apply some of the Agile concepts at home, to see if they were relevant outside of software delivery.

Just enough and just in time

I’ve had this bulk-buying mentality for a very long time. The rationale and justification was simple – it’s cheaper. That we were spending more at one go and that we needed more storage and that we were wasting stuff as the perishables reached their expiry date by the time we used them – did not get factored into the costing.

The foolishness of it all struck me when one day, I had this great idea to buy a new cupboard to stack up loo roles and cleaning products for the next 12 months. Before I felt compelled to execute my idea, my husband cancelled our Costco membership.

Although difficult at first, we adapted pretty quickly. Shopping is now just enough and just in time. We buy stuff when we need them. I buy regularly and in smaller quantities. Now, we have seen a significant reduction in monthly outgoing. We also have more storage and less wastage, which means that we have more options to experiment with, rather than being stuck with one brand for a year.

Collaborative working

When I decided to write “The ‘I’ in Agile – a personal journey”, I started solo as it was about my story and the challenges I faced at work. But, as I started to talk about it at home, my husband and children got very excited about the project and took it on as their goal as well, to ensure that the book was completed on time. My daughter offered to do the illustrations and my husband offered to remind me of science concepts that were relevant to Agile. My son kept me motivated, as he wrote a 5 page book himself, complete with coloured-in pictures – ‘A spider bit Peter Parker. Peter Parker became Spider-Man. The end.’

At different times, depending on the phase of the book, we passed on the leadership hat, as we discussed and debated about the contents and the flow. When I was adding in the concepts from physics and chemistry, my husband led the conversations. My daughter happily assumed the leadership role as we worked together to come up with illustrations and messages that matched the story. I could see how we kept aside our ego and worked collaboratively, pushing back or agreeing with each other, with only the goal in focus – to complete the book to a standard we were all happy with.

This project has helped re-validate and re-confirm a very fundamental rule for good team work – to keep aside your ego and do everything and anything you can to help achieve the goal the team commits to.

Prioritisation

We did a prioritisation exercise when my daughter struggled to manage the revision for her end-of-year exams. We took most-unknown, most-marks and least-effort as parameters and came up with a less daunting plan of action.

Continuous improvement

As with many families, we too struggled with huge piles of clothes to be washed and ironed. If we were lazy or busy one weekend, the pile would become a mountain. We thought this was a good example to see how we could improve our delivery of clean, ironed clothes to the cupboard.

We started to put the washing in every day. That made the everyday pile smaller. We then started to delay the washing to around noon, so that the washing machine drew electricity from solar PV panels rather than from the grid. That has now helped the electricity bills too!

Ironing is becoming more regular, but we still have a long way to go. But we have seen the benefits of taking small baby steps, improving and fine tuning the process as we go along.

Kanban

We put up a Kanban board at home to manage all the stuff that needed to be ticked off. We saw a reduction in the “Oh my god, I completely forgot!” moments.

This helped me to understand that Agile is not confined to software delivery. I continue to learn that it can be applied to any situation, whether it me at home, at work or even at school and other social groups. In a nutshell, if you have a goal to achieve, all you need to do is focus on getting to it. The rest is all easy-peasy!

For more information on making the transition to an agile culture, read Hema Iyer’s book The ‘I’ in Agile: A Personal Journey. Get 30% off until Friday 26th October!

About the Author:

Hema Iyer is an IT professional who has been engaged in the different aspects of software delivery, for over 20 years. She has worked in projects in India, Singapore, Malaysia and UK in various capacities.

Her life goals are simple – to learn something new every day, to stay healthy and to sleep well, every night.

She lives in South London, with her husband and two lovely children.