How Gamification Changed My Approach to Transformation

I had the honor of witnessing for three years, 3000 employees changing the way things are done in the most fun and engaging way

Close Up Photography of Yellow Green Red and Brown Plastic Cones on White Lined Surface
Photo by Pixabay

I first applied Gamification as a transformation approach in a major bank in Australia through a program we pinned as “Quality Excellence”.

Let me tell you a bit about how this program worked and how it resulted in +10 Million in savings, +7000 improvement initiatives and around 3000 employees being the transformation agents!

Differences from typical transformation approaches

The Quality Excellence program drew on many of the proven techniques of the well-known Japanese concept kaizen.

Where a traditional improvement program would start with detailed business analysis and mapping, this program started with training the people to see waste and inefficiency under their own noses.

Where a traditional program would involve consultants making lengthy recommendations for change, this program saw those recommendations, and their implementation, come from the people who know the job best – those who actually do the job. Where many improvement programs and cost-cutting initiatives in large enterprises rely on a small number of ‘big ticket’ changes, this program made more of the hundreds of smaller, incremental improvements that exist in every organization.

Recently I saw an image online that illustrated exactly the importance of keeping it small but constant:

Two Equations being compared: One elevated to 365 versus 1.01 elevated to 365

Now, imagine not one individual but ALL employees attempting to make small incremental changes to their day to day. Here is a small example of what that would look like:

Detailed calculation of how multiple people making savings, will create a big saving no matter how small

Besides the small incremental changes, the gamified approach success had other aspects that contributed to this program’s success:

    1. Senior- Management buy in – the program had senior-management sponsorship and support, which gave it greater importance in the eyes of middle management, team leaders and operators;
    2. Not focusing on cost saving – from the outset, the focus was not on cost reduction but on increasing value to the customer. This created a win-win situation, as it improved customer retention while making the work of many operators easier and more efficient than it had been previously.
    3. Knowledge retention and sustainability – rather than the typical scenario of consultants making change then disappearing with their knowledge, this program focused on retention of knowledge within the employees. Further, since those employees had benefited from the improvements they had made, there was a strong desire to continue the process and find further improvements into the future.
Gamification and making it fun

Another major difference from traditional improvement initiatives was a focus on fun. Instead of dry workshops, potential improvements were identified via specially designed games, rolled out across a number of departments at the same time. The games gave the improvement identification and, importantly, implementation a competitive edge. This kept the motivation and interest keen, and ensured a high participation rate. Rewards were provided, but they were token: the emphasis was on making the work easier on one hand, and more effective for the customer on the other.

Some feedback from participants

“Before QE was launched in our department, we believed we had a pretty lean and efficient operation. There were many doubts about what more we could ‘trim off’ the edges. The QE program, with its focused and competitive approach, empowered staff at all levels to identify areas of improvement and drive solutions that we wouldn’t have seen earlier. It also removed the bureaucracy and red tape to enable ideas to be implemented in a timely fashion. While the official program has ended, the cultural change that it delivered has continued to play a role in ideas generation and an awareness of where future lean opportunities may lie.”

Operations Manager, Trade Processing Australia

“The way that QE started is a great story: there was an opportunity – or rather a need – to look at how we could make lean thinking a more ‘real’ activity across the organisation and something that everyone took part in. What was clear was that the support of the leadership for QE was very important. If you are going to take part in a program that is over and above your day-to-day job, you want to know that it is considered important and that someone really cared about it in terms of outcomes. A signal from leadership that this is an important part of the way people do their job is really critical for success.

QE Sponsor, formerly GM of Institutional Operations

“The QE program brought out the best from my team members. It empowered each individual to think of improvements and implement those changes. Knowing that each idea was making a difference to their daily work drove team moral up and motivated the staff to continue to think of better ways of doing their job. Suddenly I went from having a team that didn’t want to come into work, to a team that was 100% engaged and motivated to do the best they could on a day to day basis.”

Kristin Slota, Team Manager, Payments and Cash Operations

So, next time you are looking for an out of the box way to transform an organization, look no more and give Gamification a try.

If you would like to know more details of the Quality Excellence Program, I published a book about it. If you’re interested, ,have a read.

Disclaimer: Apologies if some interpretations may offend a reader. I do rely on literal translation at times since English is a second language. My intention with this article is to spread awareness. I welcome your feedback to ensure I will not be constantly making the same errors in translation.

I also write about my own life ,professional experience and learning curve. I am a continuous improvement learner so I welcome you to share extra information and spread awareness with me if you have other ways of analyzing the same issues or you have value-added information to the readers of this article. Thank you for reading.