Maybe your family is still manageable - only you and your partner. Maybe it is rather big with you, your partner, kids, a dog? Whatever the size of your family might be there are always small (or big) projects going on, stuff that needs to be communicated and things that could have been done better.

I am living together with my wife and our dog. You might say that this is a rather manageable size of a family. And I agree. Still - especially if you are a young family where both partners need time to get used to the sometimes weird behaviors and adapt - there are a lot of occasions where communication is key.

“Communication is key”. This is probably the toughest part. Coming from a software engineering background I have seen very different types of individuals and their way of communicating. Of course, there are the ones that seemingly do not have problems with communication at all, in private and in their professional life. Another group is excellent in communicating at work, talking about complex technological relationships. However, outside the working place it is rather hard to get the communication going with them. And you will find all possible kinds of individuals left and right of these two hypothetical examples.

To make it short, the question I asked myself is how to create an environment in your family where everybody has a word, problems get discovered and that supports learning to communicate with each other. Don't get me wrong. This might not be an issue in your family at all as you are wunderkinder in communicating. That's awesome! However, I had a hard time - and sometimes still have - to find the right time, the right words and the right tone. Pretty often I just forgot to grant time to our relationship which led to many things left uncovered.

Reserve time for communication

So, how do you stay up to date with all the things going on in your family? Having used Scrum for quite some time at work I asked myself if some of the events could be applied at home, too. However, as the environment and the work being done at home is rather different not all of the events seemed suitable for me - at least not in the beginning.

Do not forget that you have to get your partner on board. Additionally, the effort is only worth it if you keep the activities up and do this regularly. Hence, I opted for a very lightweight approach to start with. This helped me and my spouse to concentrate on the really important stuff (i.e., have a time and environment in which to communicate).

That's what we did. The first action point was to find a time that suits both of us where we can talk and review the past week. Of course, we communicate every day. However, the days are busy and often we do not have the energy to sit together and go through projects, ideas and issues. Hence, having a fixed time or day is important for us. We reserved half an hour during the week on Thursdays and roughly an additional half hour on Sundays.

Some ideas

I do not want to go into detail in this article - each idea probably can fill an article itself, some already have. I just want to give you some bullet points for now that you can think about. I applied some of the following ideas in my family and will go into detail in later articles.

  • Weekly family meetings: The Art of Manliness wrote a thorough article about weekly family meetings. Basically, it is a mix of sprint review, planning and retrospective - and a bit more - in just one meeting. There is also a great talk by Bruce Feiler about that topic.
  • Sprints of one week: my wife and me started with a sprint length of one week. On the one hand, considering the small amount of time you have besides work, just in one week so many things happen that a longer sprint length did not make sense for us. On the other hand, extending the sprint length could lead to longer periods of non-communication.
  • Weekly retros: corresponding to the one week sprint length we plan retrospectives once a week on Sunday.

I would like to go into detail about how we do retrospectives and what other meetings we planned during the week in an upcoming article. Until then: what is your approach to keep communication up in a relationship?

Post image taken by me, published under CC BY-SA 4.0.