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Turn “process” into “game.”

Most of us are driven by the competitive spirit, the desire or need to win.  It reinforces self-worth, provides closure at the end of a good effort, and energizes us during the effort to achieve.

Many of us as managers – and our employees as workers – are driven by process, actions required to achieve a result.  And many of these actions are repetitive to a fault, contributing to boredom and ultimately to restlessness and desire for something new, in or out of the company.

There is a solution.  Everyone loves a good game.  It provides a short competitive experience with a measurable outcome in which the players know who won and by how much.  And it challenges each player to play again with learned skills and an incentive to beat the past score.

[Email readers, continue here…]  So think of ways to make each process into a game, one in which there is a defined metric or measure of the winner at the end of a cycle short enough to permit teaching, celebration, challenge, and motivation for the next time played.  Create small but meaningful competitions between groups or individuals for which recognition or small rewards are published in advance.  Allow for wins to be accomplishments of the team, as much as the individual, so that competition is a team sport, not an individual play for power.  Create and publish metrics as goals and comparisons to past accomplishments.  And pause to celebrate each new first or top score.

There are so many places where routine jobs can be made into a game.  Sales people know the rules and play to win, celebrating each small success along the way.  Why not empower each person or manager of each task in other areas to create similar challenges and metrics?  These cannot be viewed as corny or artificial ways for management to gain more output from a group without significant recognition or reward.  Or you will risk a backlash in which employees see the effort as merely a way to increase productivity in disguise, with no reward worth the effort.

Be a good coach, and be creative.  We all want to play to win and be recognized for our efforts.

  • Thanks for the post, Dave. Could not agree more that game structure is the most effective way to increase the probability of positive outcomes from a business process. Our definition of “game” is derived from improvisation. The metrics are important, and so are other elements that ensure the kinds of engaged behaviors that can make work fun and productive at the same time.

  • We thank you for a good message and solid wisdom to follow. I love your close…”Be a good coach, and be creative”. These are powerful words for us all. They can make the “game of work” playful and fun. It helps us all at MSI follow are final Guiding Principle…”We are about having fun”.


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