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Change Management and Scrum from a Gamification Perspective

29 May 2017

Introduction to gamification

I have been studying gamification strategies and practices for a while, and after having been part of several change initiatives, I've begun to appreciate how the game design concepts can be used for change initiation and management. Gamification involves using game design elements in nongame design contexts. Gamification plays a key role in increasing employee engagement. Gaming elements and concepts behind the game design framework, which are used to inspire people to get to the next level of the game play, can be applied to nongaming contexts and engage and motivate teams to reach the next levels as deemed by the organization.

Many games in the industry use simple game mechanics that include extrinsic rewards such as badges and points. However, the versatility of a gamified system depends on how the intrinsic motivators are exploited, which can be achieved by providing players with real-time feedback to reinforce the desired behavior. The key to a successful gamified system depends on how effectively the gaming elements are used to engage players, rather than a means to showcase extrinsic rewards. The desired outcome of a gamified system directly correlates with the motivation of the players involved. The idea of gamification and the universality of its application create a completely different dimension to thinking.

Game design framework

Kevin Werbach identified six steps in the game designprocess, as detailed below.

We can better understand the typical steps involved in change management by looking at how the game design steps can be used as a tool for change management.

Steps for the change journey

Any general change initiative, whether it relates to Agile transformation or not, at minimum requires the organization to plan for the following activities. (There may be exceptions depending on the context and organization.)
  1. Identify the need for change and define the desired state.
  2. Determine how it will affect the organization, leadership, and teams.
  3. Assess the organization's readiness for the change.
  4. Figure out who will lead the change.
  5. Determine how to facilitate the change initiative.
  6. Determine how to engage and motivate the change participants.
  7. Initiate the change.
  8. Develop a communication strategy.
  9. Inspect and adapt the change initiative based on feedback.

Change management and gamification

The steps for the game design process can be mapped to a change management process. In fact, the game design process may be used as a change management tool, depending on the context, though it may not always be applicable. Here is how I see them map to each other:


Having worked on a couple of Agile transformation initiatives, I think the game design process steps can be used to also initiate Agile transformations, as these transformations are all about change management.

Gamification and Scrum

There are several Agile frameworks, such as Scrum, Kanban, and XP, that can be used at the team level during the delivery and execution, depending on the context and the problem domain. I have been using Scrum for a few years and was thinking of doing something different to bolster engagement and create more fun. Since I had been reading about gamification, I thought, why not gamify the Scrum framework? As I worked on it, I was surprised to learn that Scrum is already gamified to a large extent, as described below.
Scrum can be considered a collaborative game playing framework, whereby team members engage with each other every sprint to deliver business value. Any game has clear goals and rules, and so does every sprint. The gaming environment must provide constant feedback that helps players change their strategy along the way, and the sprint ceremonies are in fact meant for this! The ceremonies and artifacts in Scrum are nothing but the activity loops. For example, the burn-down charts, task boards or daily progress indicators, Definition of Done, and frequent feedback from product owners during the sprint are typical examples of engagement loops used in a gamified system. Similarly, the sprint reviews, retrospectives, and release burn-down/burn-up charts can be considered examples of progression loops in a gamified system.

I think the concept of basic gamification is already embedded in the Scrum framework to an extent. This was my comprehension, based on what I had read and understood about gamification, while I was figuring out ways to apply this concept to Scrum teams. However, there is always scope to add more elements to gamify the existing framework. We can do this by using customized information radiators to maximize the team’s engagement by providing lots of feedback that will help them look at the current state and inspect and adapt.

My two cents

In summary, we can always gamify the existing system to make it engaging by using data analytics, visual radiators, maturity levels, and feedback loops. I would caution, however, that too much focus on extrinsic motivators, such as points, badges, rewards, and levels, may lead to pressuring the teams to attain levels and misuse the gamified system by playing with the numbers.

I would be glad to hear whether any of you have tried gamification while working with teams. I look forward to learning from your experiences!

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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