Presented by Arlen Bankston
Using Behavioral & Gaming Strategies to Evolve Team
Performance & Engagement
• Managing Partner & Co-Founder of
• Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt
• 16 years in the industry, 10 doing Agile
• Coached Agile game development teams
• Played and occasionally built games on [very
lengthy list of] platforms
Who Am I?
Our Agenda for the Hour
• Motivation in General
• Motivation in Agile Today
• Motivation in Games
• Applying Gaming Tricks
• An Example Agile Game
• Wrap-up & Questions
As ScrumMasters, coaches and managers, we must
motivate our teams to keep improving. Perhaps we
can learn a few tricks from game designers.
This session will:
• Examine the behavioral levers that game designers use to
craft compelling experiences
• Show some examples of how these systems at scale can align
teams better against organizational goals
• Explore some practical ways to use these levers to engage our
team members and make work fun
Motivating Ongoing Improvement
Are Performance Reviews Motivating?
Most performance reviews are infrequent and stressful.
“In practice, annual ratings are a
disease, annihilating long-term
planning, demobilizing teamwork,
nourishing rivalry and politics, leaving
people bitter, crushed, bruised,
battered, desolate, despondent, unfit
for work for weeks after receipt of
rating, unable to comprehend why
they are inferior…”
W. Edwards Deming
Sources of Motivation
What have we achieved?
How has the market judged us?
What are we passionate about doing?
How and when do we work?
What do we want to build?
Are our rewards just?
The eight elements of flow:
1. Clear goals
2. Direct, immediate feedback
3. Balance between skills and challenges
4. Deep concentration on task at hand
5. Complete involvement in the present
6. A strong sense of control
7. An altered sense of time
8. A loss of self/ego
Motivation through Flow
People are in the most happy when they’re in a state of flow.
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
During flow, focus maximizes
performance and enjoyment.
Image Source: Flow in Games by Jenova Chen, Communications of the ACM April 2007
How do we engage and motivate our Agile teams today?
• Timeboxing – Sprints, Daily standups, Spikes…
• Peer pressure – Colocation, Daily standups…
• Autonomy – Shared Backlogs, Retrospectives…
• Transparency – Demos, Daily standups, Burndowns…
• Shared goals – Sprint goals, Crossfunctional teams, Visions…
Motivational Factors in Agile Today
Many of us employ these tactics without really grasping the
mechanisms that describe why and how they work.
Can understanding help us do even better?
Most existing “Agile games” act as workshop
facilitation frameworks or training aids.
Luke Hohmann’s Innovation Games have garnered
significant traction. They leverage game theory to:
o Assist in market research
o Facilitate collaboration
o Make touchy subjects neutral
o Make onerous work fun
Agile Games Today
Agility is about adaptation, not compliance.
• However, decisions drain us
• Intelligent rules can constrain our decisions,
lowering stress levels
• We can use game-like process frameworks to
consciously balance intensity and relaxation,
keeping improvement from becoming a chore
Let’s look at how games work…
Balancing Freedom & Constraint
How games drive happiness:
• Eustress – When we choose
our hard work, we enjoy the
stimulation and activation.
Games as Happiness Engines
14 Adapted from Reality is Broken by Jane McGonagal
• Fiero – Emotional rush, craving for challenges we can
overcome, battles we can win.
• Flow – Intensely focused, highly motivated, creatively
charged, working at the limits of our abilities.
Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog Studios
At its essence, any game has:
• A Clear Goal – a specific outcome
that players achieve
• Rules – place limitations on how
players achieve the goal
• A Feedback System – tells players
how close they are to achieving the
• Voluntary Participation – players
willingly accept the goal, rules and
Essential Traits of Games
15 Adapted from Reality is Broken by Jane McGonagal
Journey, That Game Company
Microsoft’s racing game
Forza Motorsport 4 lets
• Paint their cars, allowing
artists to market their
talent and show their
• Rewind without penalty,
allowing players to
experiment without risk.
Game Tricks – Forza Motorsport 4
• Race common challenges against ghosts of others, allowing
racers to play when and with whom they like.
Taking cues from Forza, we might:
• Let our team members brand themselves – We take
titles away in service of the team, but individuality is
worthwhile, and people like to pick their own roles.
• Visibly celebrate small failures – When teams stop
failing, they’ve stopped taking risks and innovating.
• Offer Challenges for public recognition – A sponsor
could challenge a team to bring a project or feature
in within certain constraints and quality levels, with
Applying the Principles
Sony’s game-building toolbox LittleBigPlanet 2 lets
players customize their characters, create their own
levels, share them, and rate them.
Game Tricks – LittleBigPlanet 2
Taking cues from LittleBigPlanet, we might:
• Create an improvement marketplace – Share good
ideas, and reap benefits when others like them.
• Challenge teams to enhance processes – Experiment
with different structures, tools and cadences for
meetings and workshops. Share the results with
• Let Customers score you – Customer and end user
satisfaction is rarely made explicit; make ratings
visible and make achieving them like a game.
Applying the Principles
We might also:
• Visualize intangible improvements – Velocity is only
part of the picture; what about customer
satisfaction, learning, better organizational
• Let teams create badges – Often silly when
externally imposed, these can reward a team’s
behavioral preferences tangibly when custom
A Few Other Tricks
Exercise – Gamify Scrum
Let’s try something simple:
1. Roll the dice to choose a Game Mechanism.
2. Pick a Standard Scrum Ceremony:
o Daily Scrum
o Sprint Planning
o Sprint Review/Demo
o Sprint Retrospective
3. Use your mechanism to enhance the ceremony.
• The Goal: Fast Throughput of Valuable Key Goals with High Quality.
• Simple, outcome-based framework for team self-management
• Leverages both competition and cooperation to focus team on value
• Easily integrates with Scrum
Agile Game Overview
KEY CHALLENGES THE AGILE GAME’S SOLUTIONS
Shared vision in large teams Individuals cannot win, only Teams
Objective definition and validation of value Customers/Product Owners define “Value”
End users validate “Value”
Team energy & accountability Teams are measured together
Team-based performance management Funds for winning are built into project buffers
Active & continuous process adaptation Incremental improvement is rewarded
Formulation and adoption of best practices Innovative tactics are encouraged by measuring the end,
not the means
Customer focus and participation Customers are rewarded in tandem with their Teams
Quality assessed by real users Points are awarded based upon evaluation with real
users, not just internal measures of success
Team Score = Σ (Key Goal Value Points * Quality Points) / (Time in Process)
Key Goal Value Points = Benefit / Cost
• Extra High (e.g. key differentiator) = 200
• High (e.g. commodity feature) = 100
• Medium (e.g. cost reducer) = 50
• Low (e.g. bug fix) = 10
• Extra High = 4
• High = 3
• Medium = 2
• Low = 1
Key Goal Quality Points = [Sum of
• Key Goal Rating (+200 points for
100% rating, +100 for 50% etc.)
(See Defining & Testing Key Goals for
• % Automated Regression Test
Coverage (-50 for <75%, +25 for 76-
90%, +50 for 91-100%)
• Build Stability (-20 for 2 or more build
failures, +30 for 1 or less)
Time in Process = Iteration length in
Release Points = Σ (Scores over time)
Bonus Point Opportunities:
• Implemented Retrospective Action Item = +30
• Win Sprint Game Competition = +100 for Team events, +25 for individual
• Each 1% Improvement in Sprint Points = +10
• Custom Opportunities defined by Product Owner
Release & Bonus Points
• Key Experiences will exist for each possible development Release
• Key Experiences will be represented by Key Goals and accompanying Test Questions
o Key Goals will represent major features
• Include Justification relative to Key Experience target for project
• Test Questions encapsulate Justification in a form that will be tested with representatives from target market
• Key Goals can be suggested by anyone, but will be approved and prioritized by the Chief Product Owner and
their advisory Product Owners
o Test Questions and specific ways to test them are suggested by functional Product Owners and their
• Key Goal testing (Monthly): Do our Key Goals meet target baselines (represented by Test
Questions) when tested with Target Audience?
o Hybrid testing model constructed by Team for each Key Goal
o E.g. concept illustrations + Release description + interactive demo + comparison with reference
products, brief anonymous Kano survey with Test Questions (see Example below)
o Record for Team review at each Sprint
o Provide model for long-term engagement by viable volunteers
o Align with marketing campaigns (e.g. viral)
Defining & Testing Key Goals
Key Experience Gamers will travel through a near future world in imminent danger of annihilation by an alien force of
unknown origin. They will be fighting alongside a resistance force composed of compelling individuals,
and the world will feel alive through deep environmental interactivity and meaningful story branches
driven by player actions.
Key Goal A Gamer will manipulate her environment and solve puzzles intuitively by using a “gravity gun.”
Justification This will give players an intuitive, precise and dramatic way to feel that they are a part of a real
environment in which they can exert deep control.
Test Questions (rated numerically, relative weightings, contribute to percentage of Value score)
Intuitive Will the target market’s familiarity with FPS conventions lets them view “guns” as a natural extension
of the player character?
Does the current control scheme come naturally to players, with minimal instruction?
Precise Will a fixed cursor allow for easy selection of objects within the player’s frame of view?
Is the current default level of sensitivity adequate for the test puzzles?
Dramatic Will the ability to throw objects long distances and slightly exaggerated collision physics excite the
Does this ability seem novel relative to familiar FPS conventions?
Real Environment Does the environment seem natural and realistic?
Deep Control How interactive does the environment feel?
Kano How would you feel if this feature was included in the game?
How would you feel if this feature was not included in the game?
Feature Promoter How likely would you be to recommend trying this feature to your gamer friends?
Differentiator How does this feature compare to similar features in games you’ve enjoyed previously?
Suggestions What would you change about this feature?
Collaborator Would you be willing to provide feedback and suggestions in future test sessions?
Key Experience Testing Example
So, to conclude our story:
• Performance management is, at its heart, about
motivating people to do their jobs better, but it
often fails at this task.
• Agile is about adaptation, not compliance.
• Forcing behavior is unsustainable at best, so we
need ways to incent people to engage on their own.
• Games and the psychology behind them can help
us motivate our teams sustainably, and make work
more fun while we’re at it.
Some good follow up books include:
• Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
• Total Engagement: Using Games and Virtual
Worlds to Change the Way People Work and
Businesses Compete by Byron Reeves and J.
• The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious
Games: How the Most Valuable Content Will be
Created in the Age Beyond Gutenberg to Google
by Clark Aldrich
Contact Us for Further Information
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