When pulling becomes pushing

By it’s very definition, Kanban is a “pull” system. This means that team members pull more work from the product backlog when they have capacity to take on the work. The onus is on the team to do the pulling, not on anybody to “push” the team to take on more work. The ideal is ultimately to achieve a sustainable pace through self-organization and self-regulation of the system.

Currently, as custodian of our Personal Kanban board at home, however, I find that a certain amount of pushing is required for team members to continue pulling story cards from the backlog.

Part of this may simply be down to habit. Our board is less than a month old, and although the kids have become quite comfortable with it, it’s not entirely an ingrained habit for them yet to see the cards as potential chores for them to do. They need some nudges and reminders about cards that they could take on.

The other part, I think, has to do with the nature of kids and being young. As adults we need to appreciate that, as grown-ups in this crazy busy world we live in, we may be driven by productivity and efficiency, but our children are not. They need time to play and just be free to revel in the little joyful distractions that life brings along, especially over weekends. Most families are already leading such routine-driven, scheduled lives during the week, that it’s even more important to savour the freedom that weekends bring to turn the pace down a notch.

Although Kidzban is making an enormous contribution to helping our family being more organized, ultimately it needs to be just a tool. A tool that can help us to raise balanced children who are able to manage their own lives effectively, yet always maintaining balance. It must never become yet another way to push ourselves (and our children) to do more than is healthy for them, or for us.

It really is OK to do nothing sometimes …

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7 Responses to When pulling becomes pushing

  1. Jim Benson says:

    Pulling doesn’t have to be done by the person doing the work. You can pull for your team (or populate their backlog).

    What is happening is the group is doing a risk analysis of future work. Some of the decisions of what makes value for the family organization rest with upper management. (That’s you!) As CMO (chief mom officer) you set organizational priorities.

  2. maritzavdh says:

    Upper management indeed sets the priorities by ordering the backlog (and I definitely make sure the things I want doing first are hovering at the top of the “Next Up” column!).

    But isn’t it up to the team to set their own pace by pulling items from the already prioritised backlog? Of course, it not enough value is being delivered, upper management can express dissatisfaction with the team’s productivity and demand more. But how do you balance that with letting the team find it’s own “natural” (sustainable) pace?

    One idea came up this weekend – perhaps some weekends we should just take “off” and not commit to anything major at all? Then if there’s some “pushing” in the other weekends, everyone knows that every fourth weekend there will be entirely no pushing going on at all.

  3. Jim Benson says:

    Yes, but if you went to work and found your whole team playing Mario Kart and saying “I don’t wanna work on my MMFs!” – I think you’d start pulling work for them.

    Your weekends off are not off – they’re weekends! 🙂

    I’m not expecting your kids to stop being kids. There are greek legends about kids not wanting to do their chores. (Epics, even). And incentives only go so far.

    What you may be finding is that kids have a threshold. Their WIP (work in progress) is interfering with their other WIP (Weekend in progress). Both need to be respected.

    How creative can the tasks get? Laundry = not very creative. Building a new garden = more creative.

    • maritzavdh says:

      I think I have accepted a couple of things. For the time being the CMO will have to do some pulling to ensure a constant flow of work. Self-motivation will only come once habits are firmly established. Also, my being a full-time working mom with just weekends to get home stuff done, led to my being a bit too pushy over weekends. Now this CMO is chillaxing a bit more and respecting the natural Weekend In Progress needs of everyone concerned. 😉

  4. Jesse Brown says:

    At work there are some very direct incentives for pulling work, like my salary and keeping my job. Have you established a system of rewards that are more than just the satisfaction of being done?

    • maritzavdh says:

      Hi Jesse! Thanks for taking the time to comment on this post. We indeed have a system of rewards – tailored to the age and interests of each of the kids involved. In fact, my next post will be covering our general system as it stands currently. As I replied to Jim, I think I was just expecting a bit too much and not allowing for enough R&R over weekends for everyone – myself and my husband included!

  5. Pingback: Family planning the agile way « Becoming an Agile Family

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