At 7 p.m. on a Sunday in Hidden Springs, Idaho, the six members of the Starr family were sitting down to the highlight of their week: the family meeting. The Starrs are a typical American family, with their share of everyday family issues. David is a software engineer; his wife, Eleanor, takes care of their four children, ages 10 to 15. One of the children has Asperger syndrome, another ADHD; one tutors math on the near side of town; one practices lacrosse on the far side. "We were living in complete chaos," Eleanor said.
Like many parents, the Starrs were trapped between the smooth-running household they aspired to have and the exhausting, earsplitting one they actually lived in. "I was trying the whole 'love them and everything will work out' philosophy," she said, "but it wasn't working. 'For the love of God,' I finally said, 'I can't take this any more.' "
What the Starrs did next was surprising. Instead of consulting relatives or friends, they looked to David's workplace. They turned to a cutting-edge program called agile development that has rapidly spread from manufacturers in Japan to startups in Silicon Valley. It's a system of group dynamics in which workers are organized into small teams, hold daily progress sessions and weekly reviews.