How to Project Plan Family Events

Should you project plan your family? What goes on the critical path?

Here’s an idea.

Bruce Feiler, the author of The Secrets of Happy Families suggests that to deal with the stress of modern family life, we should ‘go agile’.

Agile is an approach to developing software that based on iterative and incremental development. It promotes adaptive planning and encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

In his TED Talk, Feiler introduces family practices which encourage flexibility, bottom-up idea flow, constant feedback and accountability. One surprising feature: Kids pick their own punishments.

How To Project Plan Family Events

So, how can you get started and encourage your family to be more agile?

Here are nine ways:

  1. Identify a project – for example, weekend sports games. This usually involves washing the gear (before and after), preparing drinks and snacks (for everyone), getting directions (if it’s an away game), picking up other kids, and checking that all the gear is in the training bags.
  2. Use a whiteboard – in one column write the name of the task, in the other get family members to select the tasks they want to be responsible for.
  3. Identify tasks – list all the tasks associated with sports practice. Don’t put them into priority yet. Just get them out there. Get everyone involved in doing this, not just you, the parent. This creates a stronger sense of ownership.
  4. Prioritize – use a red felt pen to highlight the MUST DO and critical tasks. These are the tasks which should be done first, or if this is not possible, then they must be double-checked before you leave. For example, have you packed any medicine that the kids may need, such as asthma inhalers? You can forget other things but not these.
  5. Assign resources – encourage the younger members to select tasks but try not to influence them too much. Make sure no one is
    forced into a task, for example, “you’re so good at cleaning the boots, you should stick with that.” Likewise, don’t delegate (i.e. dump) unpleasant tasks to the same person every time. Rotate tasks so everyone gets a turn and gets to appreciate what others do, and what
    they may not be aware of.
  6. Estimate the amount of time – some tasks take longer than you think. For example, getting directions to an away game may seem relatively simple. Just a phone call, right? But if you can’t get through on the phone, it can eat up your time. Also, when you have the address, you should locate it on a map, so you can determine how long it will take to get there. Do you need to get gas before you leave? Who does this?
  7. Allow for contingency – what happens if one person is unable to complete a task, for example, if one of the kids was booked on a weekend trip with other friends.
  8. Revise and Refine – you need to be flexible when running a family. Things change all the time. Interruptions, the flu, arguments,
    and tantrums will throw a spanner in the works of all parent’s plans. So, see your family project plan as a guideline, a tool for mapping
    activities, but not set in stone. If it needs to be updated, then make the changes BUT tell those affected.
  9. Communicate changes – we all know the saying, ’the family that prays together, stays together’. Along the same lines, I suspect that families who spend time together, for example, one hour during the week where you – as a team – review what’s working, what needs to be tweaked, and any areas where family members feel they’re getting a raw deal. The key here is to give everyone a voice away. By holding a short recurring meeting but with a specific goal, then everyone gets a chance to take ownership, be accountable, and also get credit. Remember, to accent the positive side as well.

The benefits of adapting the Agile model with your family

Brendan Marsh explains how to use the Scrum feedback loop to achieve your personal goals

Molly at Digital Mom highlights that, Kids that plan their own goals, take more control over their lives. Let kids succeed and FAIL on their own terms.

Robert Duff suggests that, I’m a firm believer in decentralized decision making as a means of creating stronger more adaptive organizations. As a father of four children, I’m also very interested in parenting wisdom.

It has some great ideas for parenting and also illustrates the universality of Agile’s adaptive, empowering approach to management. Of course, maybe it’s not for everyone. @maritzavdh suggests Kanban boards as one alternative or at least as a complimentary way to manage family tasks.

Of course, it’s not perfect and there’s always room for improvement as Maritza van den Heuvel points out on her excellent Scrum Family blog, “We started out using Scrum, but soon found out that it wasn’t working well for us. So I decided to try Personal Kanban instead. We’ve also successfully combined kanban boards with other techniques like checklists, calendars and the all-important reward system. And we’ve learnt that we need to keep evolving our use of kanban to keep it fresh and interesting for the kids. It’s not called continuous improvement for nothing.”

The Ted Talk is here.


The key here isn’t to turn your family into soulless droids, performing tasks, and updating to-do lists all day.

It’s to give everyone a chance to see what others are doing, help when help is needed, and teach them the fundamentals of living a structure life. The principles of project management techniques are quite simple – plan, schedule, do – but it’s easy to overlook this during a busy week.