Getting Kids into self-organization. The tangible experience

Rafa Garcia — №25 with Andrea Feinberg

A friend of mine sent me one of those Whatsapp jokes — a meme. It was something like “X Files: The extraordinary case of the child who arrived the very moment he was asked to.” Readers with children — Spanish, English or Canadian — know what I’m talking about.

A generation ago, the knowledge worker concept was mainly something related to managers and businessmen. These people certainly had to work hard, as authority and decisions often rested with them. Only a fraction of the workforce could be considered knowledge workers. They probably were pioneers facing the difficulties of living both their professional and personal lives, even though the “techno-economical” environment in the 1960s or 1970s was still some levels below current complexity.

(Wait, wasn’t this an article about children?! Just two more paragraphs, thank you!)

Those former lawyers, engineers and economists were highly regarded, and I bet they had no problem paying someone to patiently teach their children their duties.

Nowadays knowledge workers are not as abundant, nor as highly regarded. We even take care and educate our children by ourselves. Most of us keep on working, or thinking about work at home, even if we make use of modern tools like GTD or apps like Nozbe. And in the meantime, our children are scrambling around.

Kids’ duties

We need something to explain to them they also have obligations. Something different from the annoying, neverending repetition of “clear off your desktop, clear off your desktop, clear off… etc.”, yet connected with the way we organize our own work and the way they will probably organize theirs in the future. Something easy and enjoyable. That something is Kanban Kids.

In the preceding articles about this issue, Do you Kanban Kids and Getting kids into self-organization, the technological way, I made a theoretical approach to the problem. Finally I involved my two children, Dulce (aged 9) and Miguel (aged almost 5).

Our experiences

I explained to them the Kanban basis and overall thought about the board design and the stuff we needed to build it: a metal panel, a pair of photographs, some magnetic bands (great invention!) and, of course, a bunch of colored, funny stickers.

They fully got themselves into the mission. Of course, Dulce’s understanding and involvement was different from Miguel’s, but he also contributed. When reaching his sister’s age he will be a Kanban master.

With regard to the design, we agreed on the typical and basic three columns: To Do, Doing and Done. But we also left the very special challenge strip. When something important and valuable has to be achieved, we will establish a number of steps to do it and a final reward. Each step will be shown in the Kanban horizontal swim-lane with an eye-catching purple sticker.

Spaces for tasks are like life: dynamic. Only the second column will be fixed because of the WIP limit. Just two tasks are allowed to be configuring our Work In Progress. The others may vary depending on the moment. With the magnetic bands we can stretch or compress strips as desired in a clean and neat way.

Dulce’s first challenge:

Dulce was to take responsibility for her daily tasks, with no supervision or guidance. After 10 purple stickers, we would enjoy a cinema evening. By the way, the significance of colors was her invention.

Miguel’s first challenge:

Miguel aims for 10 consecutive… ehem… dry nights. We hope this is going to be the definite incentive he needs. And if so, we will go for a snack to McDonald’s (MADONALS, as he wrote it in the reward sticker).

My wife Bea and I do not want to base all this on rewards. They will be just an extra lure. At the moment our children are happy and proud of that new piece of special metal hanging in their bedroom. They fully explained to their grandpas the whole process and we feel confident that something new and powerful has been sown in their brains.

Photo: Rafa Garcia ©2014

Rafa garcia

Rafa Garcia

Rafa García helps knowledge workers improve their self-organization. Inspired by a combination of the best classical authors, cutting-edge technology and his engineering background. García is committed to a practical and realistic approach. Rafa and his wife Bea work hard raising their children, Dulce and Miguel, in the beautiful city of La Coruña, Spain.

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