Gamification — Improving Teams

Recently I presented a workshop at Agile 2014 on Gamifying the card wall. The workshop was aimed at Agile teams who particularly use Scrum and Kanban to manage their work.

The premise is that gamification can improve engagement and collaboration within teams which ultimately will improve productivity. Gamification isn’t just about entertainment and morale, when done right it can really improve productvity and employee needs.

Just one of the many studies undertaking in this area was a recent article by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath via HBR on “Power Of Meeting Your Employee Needs” :

What we discovered was that people feel better and perform better and more sustainably when four basic needs are met : renewal (physical), value (emotional), focus (mental) and purpose (spiritual).

Within organisations we have hierarchy, management and tools to reenforce to reach goals in a controlled manner. Often the case is the larger the organisation, the more of these are prescribed. Ironically these prescribed practices confine innovation and I believe introduce constraints and large amount of wastes of human potential. The excuse that I hear around this is that there are economies of scale by standardising workflows and tools and that hierachy is reality and has to exist. In my opinion this is not a sufficient answer and lacks understanding what the tools set out to achieve and what hiearchy aims to enable; productive working environments and success for the company.

If we understand that meeting employee needs can improve a companies earning potential and ROI, then let’s take this on board. We can still have a standardisation in reporting have a language that is common to all ino order to communicate within the company. We can still have a supporting network of management that enables people to achieve their goals. However we can do things better, by trusting people and encouraging teams to evolve their working practices to find more efficient ways to meet their goal.

Gamification can be a step towards allowing teams to take ownership of their working practices to meet their goal. Encouraging teams to think about the system they work within using gamification in order to optimise the system they can control, not only can improve their practices as a team, but they could raise potent questions to improve the system they work within.

As demonstrated in the workshop, finding common themes which the team are passionate about can act as a catalyst which can improve collaboration and interest as well as help the team create their own cultural identity. In turn this can help improve the teams value, focus and purpose within the organisation.

At the very least I would encourage people and teams to challenge what they inherit. More often than not, a workflow which fits well into report and has worked well for some teams is prescribed to others. Is this the best way to work ? Is this standardisation creating silos ? Is this system failing to meet employee needs? The card wall can be used as an effective coaching tool to help teams improve.

If you would like to consider gamifcation for your team, I have created a game structure to help you create your own game with your team called Fellowship Of The Goal.

If you have already tried this with your teams or are inspired to try this with your teams, I’d love to hear how you get on.