As much as I believe in and embrace Personal Kanban to manage our family’s chores and affairs, it would not work without a reward system. At least not with the kids. Whereas I may feel a tremendous sense of achievement after completing the “home office filing” epic that took me four weekends to complete, children need something more tangible to measure their progress.
Equally important is finding a system that children actually enjoy using. A system that is age-appropriate and speaks to the interests of the child is much more likely to work than a generic approach. To this end, we currently have two systems.
Our eldest is in second grade and an avid Harry Potter fan. His rewards are tracked in an “hourglass” drawn on a large poster by adding or removing “gems”. He earns points for Kanban stories completed, or for ad hoc positive behaviour that we want to encourage. Conversely, bad behaviour loses him points.
Points represent a monetary value. At the end of each month, his points are totalled to the left of the hourglass to show progress. Depending on how many “credits” he has, he can buy things he wants. We keep track of “debits” on the right, allowing him to build up a “balance”. This way, he is not only learning cause and effect, but also the value of saving for larger purchases.
For his younger brother, we have a much simpler system. Story points and good behaviour earn him stars on a simple chart. He doesn’t lose any earned stars for bad behaviour, but faces the awfulness of enforced silent time-outs instead. For a very talkative pre-schooler, that’s something to be avoided like the plague. Every time he has collected ten stars, he gets to choose a small toy as reward when next we go shopping.
In software development teams, you need to adapt processes as the team dynamic changes or new problems arise. So although these two reward systems are working very well for us now, we will undoubtedly inspect and adapt them as our team matures.
In fact, the Star Chart is the same tried and tested system first used by Boy One. We probably only have a year or so before we will need to come up with something new for Boy Two. The way things are going now, that one will have something to do with trains or Ben 10 …