Getting Kids Hooked on Kanban

The team

So far, we haven’t been doing too badly with getting kids to do chores. The eldest of our two sons is 7, and generally not opposed to doing what he’s asked, although he does need to be reminded as he is easily side-tracked. His brother is 5, and generally extremely opposed to doing anything that he is asked to do. Number one went through this phase too, so we’re not too concerned.

Recently I wondered if Kanban could help us to get through this patch with more ease. I also suspected it could help keep Number One focused on the job at hand. So over the Easter Weekend, I jumped in and set up a simple board with stickies on our dining room table.

The experiment

We had three simple columns – Not Done, In Progress and Done. Since there were three of us (me and the boys; dad was away for the weekend), our Work in Progress limit was simple – 1 task per person.

The experiment did not work all that well with Number Two. Although he was quite keen to pick a card and move it around on the board, doing the actual work that the card corresponded to (picking up all the toys on the floor) didn’t appeal to him one bit. He did not complete a single card that day, at least not on his own.

Number One, however, had a whale of a time. He was excitedly picking cards and completing a couple of small tasks quite quickly. He seemed to be motivated simply by seeing his progress visually.

The results

The most amazing part was seeing Number One naturally discover three principles of self-organizing systems and, inherently, of  the theory of constraints:

  1. doing more than you can at any time results in doing less
  2. some things have to be done before others to get results
  3. some things need to be worked on together to get results

He became so motivated, that he said “Let’s just do them all at the same time!” I allowed him to exceed WIP temporarily to see the result. He quickly became frustrated when the movement of his cards slowed to a crawl, leading to the discovery in (1).

Realizations (2) and (3) came very simply when he chose a task (vacuum the carpet) with a dependency (pick up all toys from the floor).  And since Number Two was still stuck on pick up all toys from the floor, he was quite put out at not being able to complete his task. Until he pitched in and motivated his brother to do only those toys he wanted to do, while he did the rest. The carpet was successfully vacuumed.

The future

Since then, we’ve used a second “weekend board” for the whole family to make sure we got everything done in the weekend before school re-opened.

It looks like kanban may just become a regular part of our “getting things done” system at home, together with checklists & schedules.  Although Number Two still needs additional motivation, I think some of the new fun aspects I’ve added to the weekend board will help. More on that another day!

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2 Responses to Getting Kids Hooked on Kanban

  1. Jim Benson says:

    Bravo! This is beautiful.

    • maritzavdh says:

      Thanks for the kind words! My husband thinks I have slightly lost it, with my absorption in this, but I really find it to be a fascinating little case study of self-organization. And I’m having fun myself – a win-win all around.

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