Family flow

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“Brush your hair.”

“Eat your breakfast.”

“Have you brushed your teeth?”

“Bag packed?”

“Shoes on. Put your shoes on. Come on, put your shoes on. We need to go!”

That’s a typical morning when I’m getting the kids ready for school. It’s stressful (more to me than them). It appears that this is mirrored around the country.

So my wife and I started thinking how we could reduce this daily stress and hassle. “How about a card where, like a ticket inspector, we punch off the tasks as they complete them?” my wife suggested. The problem with that idea is that it still involves our active participation (and gives the children another excuse to fight about who gets our attention first). We wanted something that didn’t need regular input from us; we wanted to put the children in control of their own morning routine.

Thinking of how teams I work with manage their work, I created a simple board with two columns, where the children could move their morning tasks from ‘not done’ to ‘done’ as they completed each one.

It worked. The children liked being in control of setting up their daily tasks and moving the magnets for each task themselves. Once all their magnets were in ‘Done’, they got to play. We were happier too: if they stalled at any stage, all we had to ask was “What’s left to do on your board?”

We started talking to a few other parents about it and found that they wanted a board. Maybe we should start selling them? But the board wasn’t very attractive. We couldn’t ship something so low-fi to anyone other than our closest friends.

I went on a discovery to find out how we could make boards that were consistent in quality and design. I looked into printing on sheets of metal, tried spray paint and stencils, sticky letters, decals. They all came up short. Eventually I found a way to create vinyl designs that were relatively affordable, reasonably easy to produce and were consistent quality.

Although hand-making each board isn’t scaleable, it’s a good test of the market. So far, I’ve shipped 4 boards. Early feedback is good.

So what’s next? What other ideas can I take from work and implement at home?

Well, the kids spent some of the weekend starting to build a backlog for things they want to do this summer holiday. Maybe we could do weekly planning sessions and retros? (You know I’m not kidding, right?)

Update Sept 2019: I’ve decided not to follow this business idea for the time being.

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