Gamification is a newfound trend that is rapidly influencing a myriad of business disciplines and is attracting tremendous interest from venture capitalists and entrepreneurs alike. Gamification is the application of gaming concepts to non-gaming environments or systems. Avid practitioners of gamification have introduced gaming precepts to business areas such as marketing, sales, call centers, education, employee management to name a few.
The edifice of gamification is represented by a series of rules commonly referred to as game mechanics and is designed to make games fun and enjoyable. Some of these rules can be applied to project management. However, before describing these rules in detail, it is important to note that games and projects share some noticeable traits. Any game worth its salt is driven by coherent goals, well defined player roles and meaningful metrics to provide feedback on progression. Likewise, well managed projects are guided by cogent objectives, team members (akin to players) have delineated roles and intelligent metrics that are employed to measure progress. The significant difference between the two lies in gaming feedback, which is transparent, instantaneous and public. The purpose of this article is to explore the feasibility of such rules on the discipline of project management. For simplicity, the discussion about game mechanics is limited to three categories: productivity, recognition, and rewards.
Over the years, program directors have initiated various methods to enhance the output of project teams. Gamification is another but effective variant in this pursuit. Often project teams belonging to the same organization work on identical projects. The work is usually undertaken concurrently and the project teams are encouraged to compete. But efforts to measure their performance are typically based on metrics that are either too obscure or based on subjective evaluations of project managers. This leads to competing project teams to underperform. Gamification can provide an equitable level playing field that is transparent and where the assessment is impartial. For instance, consider a construction company that has won a huge contract to build three residential towers of equal height and quality. Each tower requires a separate project team to be deployed. The program director decides to use the following metrics to measure the performance of the teams and stimulate productivity:
- Nos. of floors completed on time per quarter
- Nos. of floors completed within budget per quarter
- Percentage of issues resolved on time per quarter
A dashboard is used to collate the data and the results are made available. Figure 1-1 illustrates the dashboard, which also includes the overall performance index for the teams.
Figure 1-1 Performance dashboard
A sophisticated version of the above dashboard with a wide array of project metrics can be produced, automated and published online. The real time reporting provides project teams with instant feedback about their performance and spurs productivity.
Members of project teams like all other employees require regular feedback about their performance and demand recognition when it is due. However, conventional methods of providing work-related feedback usually consist of sporadic advisory sessions together with an annual review process. For most employees this is not sufficient and many find themselves in disagreement with the final assessment—in most cases this is too little, too late. Employee dissatisfaction is more acute in projects where the team size is enormous, and team leads rarely have time to spend with individual team members. Starved of insightful reviews and formal recognition, such individuals can suffer from low self-esteem and become actively disengaged from the project.
Gamification can assist project managers to overcome such hurdles. Tools can be devised that allow project leaders, project teams and customers to provide immediate feedback on the accomplishment of tasks, achievement of milestones and the completion of deliverables. Such comprehensive feedback can be delivered in private and public. This is very effective at identifying high flyers and poor performers. It also allows team leads to focus on underperforming colleagues and providing them with the necessary support before it is too late. If this is organized and managed correctly, then annual reviews can be dispensed with. Additionally, the same mechanism can be fine tuned to provide recognition for the good work team members do. This can be published on an online recognition dashboard as shown in figure 1-2. Acknowledgments presented in this manner go a long way towards making team members feel valued by the project hierarchy and the organization.
Figure 1-2 Project team recognition dashboard
Great games employ a variety of reward and bonus schemes to keep players enthralled and engaged with the game plot. Program directors can make use of comparable tactics to reward team members for good work. Where team members exceed project targets, inducements disguised as bonuses can be awarded. Furthermore, the rewards scheme should be flexible and scalable enough to cater for teams working on large projects and programs.
Rewards and bonuses can be based on a mixture of prizes and monetary denominations. If appropriate, the program director may disburse the bonus tied with the delivery of the overall program at smaller intervals. Such calculations can be based on milestones or deliverables, depending upon the method of payment and contractual terms.
Many more gaming rules can be applied to the discipline of project management to make projects more enjoyable and increase productivity of project teams. In the coming months, I am sure project teams will learn and benefit from the art of gamification.
Source: http://www.pmhut.com, by Abid Mustafa