The Lean Household

22 May 2017 | Jo Crossick | About a 4 minute read
Tags: Agile, ANDtech, automate, budget, Communication, developer, DevOps, devs, flexible, home, lean, outsourcing, plan, principles, tech, Women in Tech

The Lean Household

We’re a family of four – two full-time working parents and two small kids. Our lives can feel impossibly busy at times! Applying lean and agile principles helps our family keep on top of things – this is how.


No single-person dependencies

We have the ability to share any chore. There’s very little that only one of us can do, and for the common tasks, we share them frequently. That means that our family can flex when circumstances change, which they frequently do – it might just be that one of us is under particular pressure at work, or someone gets ill, or one of us goes on a business trip. At those times, the other person can pick up some of the slack at home.

That doesn’t mean we don’t specialise – it’s generally understood that I’ll arrange the car MOT and he’ll sort out travel insurance. Specialising helps us divide work quickly and easily and means we can get through tasks more quickly. It’s just we’re not constrained by our specialisms.

Cross-training the whole family to be able to do certain tasks has substantially reduced bottlenecks at key points. For example, now every member of the Crossick family can put on their own shoes, we’re able to get out of the house much more quickly.


Keep on top of our technical debt

When you’ve got two small kids, things can get messy! If we don’t keep on top of the chaos, then it can really slow things down. We need to stop and tidy up frequently otherwise our floor would soon become a sea of toys, which would not only make it difficult to get around but also dangerous (nobody wants to stand on lego with bare feet!)

Technical debt isn’t just about tidying up. Taking some time now and again to clear out the clothes that no longer fit makes it easier to find or put away the clothes that they do wear. And upgrading the garden storage means the kids are going to be able to get their garden toys out by themselves more easily, which improves the value of the toys.


Automate as much as possible.

Buying our groceries online really saves us an awful lot of time.



We outsource our non-critical functions in order to invest our time on things that add maximum value to the family. In other words, we have a cleaner and that means we’re more likely to be able to spend our weekends on day-trips or other fun activities (or reducing our technical debt).


Plan ahead

It’s often suggested that Lean and Agile approaches are incompatible with long-time thinking. But sometimes there are principles in Lean and Agile thinking which can be contradictory and it’s about being able to recognise which is most relevant for your situation. Having our holidays planned a year (or more!) in advance means we’re best placed to take advantage of lower prices on flights and accommodation that quickly books up due to school holidays. This does result in some reduction in our agility (we’re in a less good position to be able to respond to changes in circumstance) and we’ve increased our WIP, or work in progress (by investing in something that won’t produce value for some time), but by doing this we’ve maximised a constraint (money). Being able to maximise your constraints is a key part of taking a Lean approach; if that didn’t apply here, there would be little point in booking so far ahead.


Talking of WIP…

It’s easy for this to get out of control. If a task takes less than two minutes, I try to do it immediately.


Communication and visibility

My husband and I are always in contact, sending IMs or calendar invites throughout the day to ensure we’re staying well-coordinated. For example, a quick IM to say that “this meeting is over-running, can you get the kids?” means we’re able to flex quickly and easily depending on circumstances. A family Trello board means we’ve both got visibility of what needs doing and the really important stuff goes on post-its on the fridge.


Inspect and adapt

We’re never too busy to talk things over. In fact, if things are feeling like they’re getting out of control that’s the most important time to stop and think things through. Being able to take a step back and re-focus on what’s really important to us is often a great way of cutting out unnecessary and unwanted chores and sources of stress. And when everyone is particularly happy, it’s a great opportunity to think about what’s led to that, in the hopes that we can keep the good times going – the answers are sometimes not obvious!

Above all, we try to keep a growth mindset and not be afraid of trying new things, in the spirit of constant experimentation and innovation. Two small and rapidly growing kids certainly makes it impossible to stand still – they change more quickly than JavaScript libraries.


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