Everybody likes a game!

Everybody likes a game!

Gamification is a technique that leverages a player’s innate competitive attributes to channel their behavior using game mechanics. The goal is to have individuals, teams, and organizations adopt process changes, then process improvement. Game mechanisms include badges, competitive challenges, levels, players and leader boards used in an integrated process to guide the players towards an overall goal. These concepts might sound foreign to you, but if you have ever participated in Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, World of Warcraft or even the venerable Dungeons and Dragons, you have participated in the use of game mechanics. Whether an app or a game, all of these examples deliver challenges to participants and then provide feedback to generate competition. Gamification motivates players to engage and adopt process changes using that competition. However, the addition of gaming mechanics to the development community can also improve collaboration if used appropriately.

Game mechanisms, such as challenges, badges and leader boards, use healthy competition and performance feedback.  For example, an organization I worked with identified set of challenge goals for a new set of development processes.  Two of the goals set for developers were that they 1) led at least 20 peer reviews as lead peer reviewers, and 2) that the first two developers that completed 50 and took a facilitation class could be designated master peer reviewers. The process improvement group posted a leader board on their SharePoint so that everyone could keep track as team members progressed against the challenges. The challenges and the feedback generated from the leaderboard created an atmosphere of collegial competition that generated engagement. The same organization holds an annual technical conference.  Attendance at the conference is by invite only (however the entire organization’s IT group could attend virtually).  As an incentive, the members of IT that had achieved the top goals in each category a month before the conference were guaranteed an invitation and a spot on a discussion panel on IT processes at the conference.

Using public leader boards can help your group identify leaders in the process knowledge community. Employees can be rewarded for participation and or their contributions to the organization’s process knowledge base. Gamificaiton not only increases process adoption rates by increasing engagement, it also helps to generate community. In the example above, one of the more interesting side effects was that loose teams formed to push members to the top of the list. A second side effect was that members of the overall development community were motivated to adopt the new processes early so that they would not be disadvantaged in the competition (if you start too late you will never be able to catch up). The bottom-line goal of gamification is to influence the organization to adopt desired behaviors.

Daily Process Thoughts on Gamification

The What and Why of Gamification

How Can We Implement Gamification?

Gamification: Game Mechanics

What Does Gamification Look Like?

Gamification and the Bartle Test

3-18 2013 painPain

When targeting process improvement opportunities where do you start? I would suggest start by finding solutions for problems that are causing the organization the most pain NOW. Pain is one of those things that we would rather not experience and will work diligently to escape when we are in it . . . usually. Usually? If a problem has been around a while and has not gotten any more severe more than likely you are not going to get a ground swell of support for spending the time and effort needed for the fix. As you build your backlog carry around a pain chart and then ask how long the problem has been around.  The higher the pain and newer the problem the greater the chance the fix will be important!

2-15 2013 Happy Chef Giant

This photo is is from the trip my daughters call the “Idols and Graven Images” road-trip in South Dakota.  There will be others from this trip.

There is a fine line in marketing that is over the top and marketing that is effective. Change requires planned marketing whether formal communication plans or word-of-mouth campaigns. All too often software professionals that have been pressed into action as change agents overlook marketing or if they address marketing it is understated.

The owners of the Happy Chef did not understand the concept of understated. In the crowded world of middle tier restaurants understated will tend to be overlooked. The big audacious marketing move gets people in the door where the Happy Chef employee’s have a chance at satisfying customer needs and generating repeat customers. Change agents need to learn enough  about marketing techniques to generate interest or hope that a management edict or word-of-mouth drives the change virally.

The Happy Chef?  We went in the door and if I remember correctly would have gone back if we were not just passing through. The big audacious marketing move only works if you deliver.

Keloggs Branding

My wife recently sailed from South Hampton to New York City on an ocean liner (different than a cruise liner).  On one of the adventures on-board she and her cousin came across the boxes in the picture.  Both are very iconic, regardless of the language they are printed in.

Change requires more than awareness and knowledge.  Lasting change requires supporting signals to reinforce and trigger what we know we should do.  A recent study in coffee shops in the UK supports the use of signals.  A placard placed in the coffee shop showed the calorie count of each of the snacks available.  Lower and healthier on the left and higher and less healthy on the right.  Nothing else was said.  Data from both the sales register and interviews done afterwards proved that the silent statement was enough to remind people of the desired behavior (the UK has an obesity problem just like the US).  Branding or other forms of visual marketing can provide triggers for behavior.