Agile on Vacation

Summer and vacation is here for many of us. We spend a week each year in our summer house together with three other families. In total we are 20 persons spanning three generations (from 3 years old to 70+), when everybody is present. Of course I started to think how can I bring some of the agile principles and practices into this. 20 persons living together in limited space with  somewhat limited resources has its challenges. In this blog post I will list three problems that we have had, and how agile have come to solve them.

””Agile

Problem #1 – Trashes

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This is our biggest problem. Being 20 persons with children still in their diapers generates a lot of trash. Since it is a summer house the trash bin is only emptied every second week. We needed to think smarter and start to recycle better, than just throw everything into the trash bin.

We started simple by separating out food leftovers in a separate bin in the kitchen, but since not everybody was familiar with the kitchen and the routines it didn’t help so much. To solve this, I came up with the following visualization/infographics.

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This helped us a lot! The problem with a full trash bin was solved. The only complaining was that it was hard to know exactly where to put each separate waste. This year we improved that with specific colorful bags (separating metal, plastic and glass, the bin for food leftovers is not shown in the picture).

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Problem #2 – Communication and planning

Before, some of the family members got together and decided on an activity (for example an exhibition in the archipelago). Then the rest of the family members were informed in various degree.

This year we started out the first day of the week with a big ”family meeting” with everybody present. Everybody had a say in what fun activities we should do during the week, together with the tasks needed (for example repairing the sauna and fixing the broken lawnmower). All of this was put down on a piece of paper (A4) and placed in the most central place in the house, i.e. the fridge :).

Since everybody also bring their mobile phones with them all the time, we also used Hangout (instant messaging service) to send out news and status updates.

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For each of the tasks, the needed competence was also stated. On the meeting there were no deciding on who should do what, that was intentionally left out. Instead, after the meeting, teams self-organized around the tasks. Someone persons with mechanical skills started with the lawn mover, others with skills in pipes and heating started to work on the sauna. I didn’t take on any specific task, but rather lend a hand where it was needed. Pretty soon tasks got completed, and I could ”tick them off” on the list.

Problem #3 – Clarifications

Some minor problems still remained. Since it is a old house the is no sign on toilet door to see if it’s occupied or not. We tried to tell people to leave the door open to indicate that the toilet was free to use, but people kept forgetting and closed the door. This visualization or sign rather, were put up on the inside of the toilet door.

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(The text says: ”When you leave the toilet, leave the door open!”)

Another minor problem where the questions ”What’s for dinner tonight?”. Since the responsibility for preparing the dinner is shared between all four families there is no natural person to ask that question to. This simple planning scheme were made to solve that, also placed on the fridge.

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Summary

There you go, how we used some agile practices on our vacation. Our main goal was flow, for things to go smooth so that everybody could enjoy their vacation! Do you bring agile thinking into your vacation? What do you do? Don’t be afraid to reach out to me for a discussion.

All the best,
Tomas from TheAgileist

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