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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like an Agile Christmas

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like an Agile Christmas

Christmas is upon us and with it comes the usual panicked shopping and last-minute tinsel. It saddens us to see people rushing around desperately clutching Brussels sprouts and pretending to be enjoying the carols while stressing out about the chaos surrounding them so, last year, we began our very own festive tradition of offering an Agile and Lean Christmas Advice Column.

As our sack is still full of desperate pleas to banish Christmas disorganisation, our gift to you once again this Yule is to help make your festivities as efficient as possible. Who needs gadgets and chocolate in their stocking when you can have productivity instead? If you wanted an Xbox, you’d be penning these letters to Santa, right? Right.

Sleigh bells Flow are you listening?
In the lane value ordered snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight
Walking in a more efficient winter wonderland
- From “Winter Wonderland” (Flowmotion adaption)

Ban Grandma from the brandy (by introducing Shared Goals)

“Dear Flowmotion, please help! I’m convinced we’ll have a happier Yule if we ban the booze, but Grandma’s never made it through a Christmas morning without the brandy bottle. How can I make sure everyone still has a great time?” – Marge, Tinselville

Ah yes, the question of how to make sure one boozed-up relative doesn’t ruin the party. We seem to get some variation on this question every year and, while we’re big fans of the mulled wine, we can understand how hard it is on the placemats if Grandma’s doing a river dance along the dinner table.

Truly, the answer to this question is simple and straightforward; the key is to take a page right out of Team Building 101. You see, most teams gel best when met with two key conditions:

  • A shared goal

  • The need to rely on one another for that goal to succeed.

We suggest coming up with a challenging goal for which everyone’s participation is required to succeed – you might even want to manufacture a mini-crisis. You have a week or so left until Christmas, plenty of time to train the dog to rip through wrapping paper. If you set him loose on the gift pile on Christmas morning, you’ll need everyone’s help to re-wrap them so that nobody sees what Santa brought them ahead of time. And look! You just happen to have several fresh rolls of wrapping paper in the cupboard…

If she heads towards the booze cabinet once you’re done, you might need to create a second challenge – but that’s ok, because nothing brings people together and takes their minds off the brandy bottle more than a crisis. We promise not to tell anyone that you were behind the whole thing. Wink wink ;)

Agile and Lean Christmas Advice Column

Keep your Christmas tree colour-coordinated (with the creativity of the kids)

“Dear Flowmotion, I really can’t bear a messy Christmas tree. How do I get the kids to decorate it nicely so that it matches the rest of my classy, colour-matched decor?” – Herbert, Baubleton

As a parent, you already know how creative your children can be. We completely understand the desire for a beautiful tree – frankly, any bauble outside the approved colour charts is banned from Flowmotion headquarters at this time of year. Those things sneak onto the branches in the night, we’re sure of it.

Nevertheless, this is an ideal opportunity to capitalise on that creativity while also getting what you want out of the whole deal: an organised, efficient Christmas tree. We like you, Herbert.

You may have heard artists say they often produce their best work when facing great limitations. You could tap into your little ones’ inner artists by making a game of decorating the tree, bound by the limitation that all the tinsel they use is complementary to your Christmas palette. They, as well as you, may be surprised at what brilliance they come up with. Be sure to be clear about your limitations, and the game as a whole!

Why not try sharing the following with everyone before embarking on the fun:



Title: Have a great time decorating the Christmas tree

We want to have a great time decorating the Christmas tree this year, showing off our creativity and spending time together as a family.

We will know we’ve achieved this if we can answer yes to the following Acceptance Criteria:


  • Have we used only our agreed Christmas colours – pink and red?

  • Did the photo we uploaded to Facebook at the end of the game get a Like from fussy Aunt Sally?

  • Did we all have fun?


When you’re finished, check that the family have answered yes to all of the Acceptance Criteria. And if not, now’s your chance to re-arrange everything without offending anyone!

If, instead, the outcome leaves you strangely compelled to stare at the tree until your eyes swim with happy tears… well, don’t worry, it’s only temporary. You’ll be rid of needles all over the carpet and back to a colour-matched living room by January!

Pick a theme for New Year’s Eve (by establishing a Value Currency)

“Dear Flowmotion, we can’t decide on a theme for our New Year’s Eve party. We’ve narrowed it down to three, but we can’t seem to make that final choice. How can we be sure we’ve picked the best one?” – Tallulah, Mincepietown

You’re clearly already familiar with the process of prioritisation – it’s how you got down to the three options you’re left with. (Pssst, one of your final choices is ‘Under the Sea’, right? One of them is always ‘Under the Sea’.)

But it seems you’ve hit a familiar stumbling block: you’re not quite sure what to do to push through to the single best choice. In our experience, it requires a great deal of vigilance, although we’ll let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t really matter which option you choose, because you’ll all be so inebriated by midnight that the decor will be a distant memory.

Agile and Lean Christmas Advice Column

Just kidding! We wouldn’t want to leave to chance the opportunity to set the tone for your coming year. It deserves a certain amount of gravitas. What we suggest you do is establish a Value Currency. In other words: what unit of measurement can you use to decide what’s most valuable to you on New Year’s Eve?

At Flowmotion headquarters, it’s ‘maximum kissing opportunities’, but that may not be the priority for you. Perhaps you’d rather have a costume you can dance in without crashing into the punch bowl, or a theme that inspires the most creative cocktails or the best music playlist.

Maybe you want to have the most original party in town and be talked about for years to come? We managed that a few years ago with our Birds of the World theme, but mostly because Grandma’s tail feathers caught fire on a cake candle. That’s why we banned the brandy.

Once you’ve established your value currency, you can ask everyone who’ll be attending to rate the three options on a scale of 1-10, where 1 suggests that this option will be least likely to provide the value we’re looking for and 10 suggests it is most likely. Take the average and use that to make your choice.

We hope you have a joyous celebration with your friends and family and that 2013 brings you everything you want – in priority sequence, naturally!

*Disclaimer: Of course, we don’t really think Christmas is all about discipline and strict organisation – where would be the fun in that? We do think it’s interesting that Lean and Agile can even be applied to party themes and Grandma’s tipples, though…!

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About the Author:

Laura M. Waite and Collin Lyons are the duo of business productivity coaches behind Flowmotion. For people in the office world who want to feel the buzz, Flowmotion is an enterprise that will awaken your passion for work. To address the all-too-typical experience of unenergetic working lives, our mission is to redesign how people interact with their environment to generate engaging, productive and collaborative atmospheres and organisations. We share several decades of experience providing organisational transformation and executive coaching and have worked with small, medium, large and global organisations including: British Telecom, British Petroleum, Standard Life Assurance and Investments, British Gas/Centrica, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Allied Irish Bank and the UK Government.
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