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Running Your Family Like a Business

My husband and I just celebrated our son’s 1 year birthday in early April. We marveled at his development in just one year and are delighted to see that he has emerged as a little individual. While we couldn’t help but patting ourselves on the back for overcoming many obstacles as new parents in the first year, we realize that there are many more challenges ahead of us. One of the biggest challenges we encounter is the stress from the chaos of family life and finding a good balance between home, work, and personal relationships. Recently I came across a WSJ article entitled “Family Inc.” written by Bruce Feiler. It offers some good tips on organizing the family using a business concept called Agile Development. Here is a summary:

Family Meetings (Agile Development Concept)

Agile Development has been applied to many businesses, from manufacturers in Japan to startups in Silicon Valley; Agile enables workers to organize into small groups and do things in short spans of time. In contrast to the typical top-down management style, Agile provides flexibility and requires accountability directly from the workers. People apply Agile to their family lives by creating “family teams”. The family team will have regular family meetings in which they agree on each member’s responsibilities and discuss their progress weekly. Each family member gets to manage themselves and decide on their own rewards and punishments. The result is increased communication and lower stress for everyone.

Key Takeaways

  • Be Flexible: During review of a week’s progress, reflect on “what worked well?”, “what didn’t work?” and “what will we agree to change for next week?”. Build in a system of change so you can react in real time. Be open-minded and let the best ideas win.
  • Be Accountable: Create a checklist for the agreed tasks/responsibilities. Don’t underestimate the power of “Checkmarks”; companies who use Agile discovered that workers are strongly motivated to do their list of tasks if they get to put a checkmark beside their task upon completion. Children can be motivated the same way.
  • Empower the children: Treat children as equals in the family team; children who set weekly goals and evaluate their own work become more internally driven and have greater self-control.
  • Parents are not invincible: effective teams aren’t dominated by a single leader; all members contribute. So ask for children’s criticism.
  • Tell Your Story / Preserve Family “Core”: Have a family mission statement; focus on family values. Reinforce the family values by telling family stories such as where the family came from and stories of family members who achieved success or overcame challenges. Studies show that children who can answer a lot of questions about their families have higher self-esteem.

If you are interested in seeing Bruce Feiler’s presentation in TED, click here.

Good luck to parents and non-parents alike; may we all be Agile in our family lives!