Sunday, May 3, 2015

Family Organization: Bruce Feiler's Agile Theory


I've been inspired lately. Okay, let's be honest, I'm on a slow prednisone taper for Crohn's and I'm a bit manic. My mania is expressing itself in organization, baking, and eating. The first two are pluses for my family and friends. The latter is proving more challenging, but I'm trying to use my energy to exercise more and offset the massive amounts of protein I'm consuming.

Needless-to-say, my level of focus and get-it-done-ness is surprising. I don't sit at my computer and fall down the social media rabbit hole. Instead, I make a plan for my free time and get to work. I hope I can maintain this once the taper ends!

While I have been baking and cleaning and crafting (yes, that has been happening, too), I've been listening to and getting caught up on podcasts. One I enjoy is NPR's TED Radio Hour, which takes a topic, interviews 3 experts on the topic, and highlights portions of their TED Talks. Not familiar with TED? It stands for Technology/Entertainment/Design and the talks feature world renown scientists, writers, entertainers who simply talk about their subject to a crowded audience of life-long learners, like me. I tuned to the TED Radio Hour today to listen to the podcast on Organization, since that is a constant struggle for me, hoping to learn some new tricks or insights. What I discovered is that I'm doing some things right, and already know the best guidelines for success. Sweet!

The speaker that I was most interested in was an interview/talk with Bruce Feiler, an author of nine books, including The Secrets of Happy Families. In this book, and in his talk, Feiler discusses a new organizational tactic for families based on "agile" computer programming, programming that evolves with the needs of the user and relies on collaboration and self-organizing, leading to quick responses and positive change. What struck me about Feiler's concept is how close it is to Montessori philosophy, an educational philosophy to which I'm devoted, which focuses on self-guidance, personal responsibility, and self-motivation based on mutual respect.

In the Montessori classroom, students receive a work-plan for the week, which serves a guideline for students, breaking down their tasks into smaller, manageable tasks. The children can choose the order of their tasks so long as they finish by Friday at 3:45. Add to this morning and afternoon meetings where teachers check in with students to help set the goals for the week and gauge how well they've done. Similarly, with agile programming (not as a software solution, but as a workforce organizational tool), Feiler explains, managers ask their workers to break down tasks and accomplish them then come back, check in, and do the next task. Sounds linear, but sensible.

Feiler takes agile a step further by mapping it onto a normal family morning routine. What does this mean? CHECKLISTS! Seriously, that's the secret. Have a morning checklist. Your kids will feel empowered to do their jobs without you shouting at them and have the satisfaction of checking things off. You will feel less stressed and everybody wins.


Take a listen to what Feiler has to say and tell me what you think? I'm not sure if I'm going to implement this, but my kids independently have organized their own chore list, which seems to follow a similar principle. I'm all for self-direction.