We made it. Jude’s surgery; Check. Jude’s recovery; Check. After spending the past 14 months consumed by the notion that our son would need reconstructive surgery to repair his cleft palete, Laura and I have recently been able to focus some of our recovered energy into making sure we create a lasting family. That energy was mostly sparked by reading “The Secrets of Happy Families” by Bruce Feiler .

The concept from this book which we immediately adopted was applying the agile development methodology to managing our family. The following is a description of how we are currently taking agile from my work as a software developer and applying the same principles to managing our family.


Visit Trello and you will quickly see that it is designed to be a tool to “Organize anything, together”. Trello is a perfect tool for organizing your family, especially if your kids are old enough to have an email address or young enough to not understand what is going on (for example, Jude’s age of 15 months). If your kids aren’t old enough to have an email address, you might want to consider creating a physical board so your kids can quickly refer to their tasks and get the satisfaction of moving tasks from the doing column to done.

We started by creating a new “Family” board and ensuring everyone was on the family board.

The next step was to create the lists we use for organizing ourselves. We currently have the following lists: Todo, Doing, Done, Backlog, Weekly Dinners, Dinner Possibilities.

Todo list

The todo list is where we store all the cards which the family has agreed to address for the upcoming week. Part of our family meeting time is devoted to picking which items out of the backlog list we need to address for that week and assigning them to members of the family.

Doing list

When someone starts a task that takes awhile to complete, we move that card from the todo list and place it in the doing list.

Backlog list

Whenever anyone in the family thinks of a task that should be done, they should create a new card in the backlog list. This list should hopefully grow rather large with tasks that need to get done by the family.

Weekly dinners & Dinner Possibilities list

This list is a recent addition to our board. It was born out of the frustration of having to pick what dinners the family plans on eating for the given week. We have begun to add all the meals we make in the dinner possibilities list so that we can devote time during our family meeting to decide which meals to fix. It has helped decrease the number of nights where we look at each other and say “seamless web, we love you too much to cook.”


Our family meeting is probably the most important part of the family agile process. For those of you that know about SCRUM, we typically combine most of the ceremonies into one family meeting held on Sunday night. It is important to include all the family members in the family meeting. Jude mostly spends the time trying to climb on everything from his crib to the dog, but we still feel its important for him to see us holding this meeting on a regular basis. Eventually we will encourage him to be an active participant.

The meeting agenda is split into two different items: the retrospective and the planning.

The retrospective

The retrospective is where you and your family members reflect on the previous week. There are three main questions that you all work together to answer. What went well this week? What did not go well this week? How can we improve this week?

It is important to foster the feeling of allowing everyone to safely speak their mind when discussing what did not go well in the week. This is the question that drives improvement in your family and can be used as reference when determining how you can improve in the upcoming weeks.

The planning

As described before, planning is where you take items from the backlog, assign them to individuals to complete in the upcoming week and add any additional stories to the backlog which need to get done. We have also begun using this to plan out our meals for the upcoming week, talk about finances, and add any tasks that could help improve the family based on the feedback in the retrospective.