Jul 04

Kids stuff

My son is eight, nearly nine. And  probably like most kids of his age he doesn’t like to do his homework. He likes to play videogames and watch tv in stead and I try to keep this to a minimum and to let him also do the important things. So I was looking for a way to turn his dislike of things that need to be done into something fun. One evening, when he did his homework with a lot of arguing and very little enthusiasm, I made him a scrum/kanban board.

It is a very basic board. It has a ‘to do’ and a ‘done’ section. It has rewards on it and looks fun with lots of colors and drawings. Together we wrote chores he can do on sticky notes. Taking out the garbage. Tidying up his room, homework and even cooking. He likes to prepare the meal every Wednesday. After we wrote al those stickies (you might see them as user stories), I tried a little experiment with him. I asked him to estimate al the work items by using scrum poker cards. I was very much surprised because I never explained anything to him about complexity or all that sort of stuff. I just asked him to assign a number to the items. The lowest for easy and higher the more difficult it was for him. Bringing out the garbage was a two on the Fibonacci scale. Making coffee was assigned as a one. And so on.

Then I asked him to estimate cooking pasta. He estimated it as an eight. Then he estimated his homework. Language in this case and something he knows, but does not like very much. His estimation was a five. I was surprised. Just an hour before he was complaining and procrastinating in doing this particular work. “Why is it a five?” I asked “Is it not much more difficult or complex to do fore you then cooking pasta?” His answer was spot-on. He said, “The homework is not that difficult, I know how to do it, it is that I just don’t like doing it. Cooking pasta is much more difficult because I have never done it before, so I think it is much harder”.

With just this simple thing the whole essence of estimation with complexity points was clear and even more surprising, this was explained by a eight year old boy who does not know anything about estimating work, Scrum projects or endless discussions about software. He was able to simply look at the job at hand and use a scale to estimate the difficulty and unknown.

Ok, I have to admit that I’m not fully doing scrum with him. We don’t do sprints and his board turned out as a sort of scrum/kanban hybrid but he loves it. He keeps asking to do chores. You have to understand that his incentive to do so is that he can earn points by getting things done. Every story has value points. And he can exchange these points for things like extra game or TV time, an ice-cream, and even fish for his aquarium. The more things he gets to done, and that are according to my definition of Done, the more points he can earn. And the more complex the work is, the higher the value.

The biggest fun part for me is that an eight year old understands complexity better than most of the grownups I have trained or to whom I tried to explain how complexity works. I use this example in my training. Apart from the fact that it is easy to explain by this example. It is also fun to see that people want to understand it even more, because if an eight year old can understand it, so can they. It must be easy. Right?

By the way, the pasta was perfectly cooked and delicious.

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  • Siddhibeppe

    love the way you do this with Aidan, and how about your english, must be fun too. love it,love it…..

  • Kanplan

    I love this story!!! This exactly what I am doing with my kids for the last 2 years. We made an app and use that instead of the physical board, the app KanPlan runs on their tablets. they enter all their homework and chores tasks in the tablet and they manage them by themselves 🙂
    I shall ask them to create a task and make pasta as well :))