Gamification of Change: 4 Principles

20130119-151135.jpgImagine one day you walk into your bosses office, and she tells you that she needs you to lead the newest and biggest change initiative in the company. It’s brand new, it’s sponsored by the CEO, the board is behind it, and there is no one better than you in the company to lead the team. All the opportunity you could hope for, along with all the risk!

Where would you start? Clearly this opportunity has many challenges including the validity of the strategy / initiative, funding, schedule, scope, politics, and adoption by the stakeholders. In this post, let’s focus on that last piece adoption.

In this new role, how will you win the hearts and minds of the employees so that they embrace the change and become devout evangelists not energy-sucking vampires? Let’s consider the use of gamification to increase adoption of the change. I propose that your change management efforts are ripe for Gamification.

Wikipedia defines gamification as “the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts in order to engage users and solve problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness, and learning.”

Gamification has several attributes that make it perfect for your change management efforts.

It’s social. Change management efforts require thorough stakeholder analysis and comprehensive communication plans with well designed messages to address the stakeholders. All of these are required to make your initiative “become social” within your enterprise. With the advent of social media, you get a simplification of this work. Leverage social media capabilities in your change management efforts, and you are one step closer to gamifying your change.

It’s competitive. In social games there is a degree of winners and losers. A little healthy competition is frequently a good thing. However, within this context, the competition is less about “I win, you lose” and more about “We all are making progress against the goals of the initiative and racking up some points along the way!” Are you providing the opportunity for everyone to win a badge through your change? Does everyone get to accumulate points, extra rounds, extended time?

It’s rewarding. Everyone likes to win, why not give everyone a chance to cross the finish line a champion? When everyone wins a badge, a round, a race, or trophy they are a champion for a moment. After all, leading change, is not about everyone crossing the finish line at precisely the same time, it’s about building and sustaining momentum thereby moving your stakeholders closer and closer to the finish line. Reward them along the way! If it’s not clicking yet, give Foursquare a try to see if you can become the mayor of somewhere!

It’s fun! When is the last time you said to a colleague in work “Wow, that change project was a blast!! What an expereince!” Why not? Why don’t we aspire to the same experience you have playing Temple Run or Angry Birds. How might you and the team you are leading feel if their change project was just a little more like Temple Run? Let’s make it more fun for our stakeholders!

Maybe you are leading a large change initiative now as a change / project manager or sponsor. Take a bold step and consider “how can I gamify my change project?” Get on your favorite mobile device and play a game, see how you feel about it and imagine that feeling in your stakeholders. Then, try it and let me know how it goes!


Collaborating – Do you want to be happy or be right?

Have you ever found yourself in the place where you are debating one side of an issue and gaining no ground whatsoever? Have you ever asked yourself what matters more, being happy or being right?

In my change efforts, I frequently look for and, more importantly, listen for these two points. The next time you find yourself in a debate or a slight disagreement, try to determine if the other person is really worried about being right (e.g. I know the best way to do this and there is only one way, my way) or if they are willing to be happy and accept an answer that might be somewhat different than their current view. Its not always easy to hear the differences. A lot of time it comes down to emotions. If you can gain a perspective on their emotions, you will do yourself a favor. Here are a couple of my favorite questions to assess the situation:

  • What is the emotional state of the person debating me? Are they frustrated and driving to a point to prove themselves correct?
  • Ask “So what?” in a very genuinely curious fashion. Without being curious, you will sound (and be) arrogant. Asking this question is the best way to cut through the “noise” and distill the real underlying issues. HINT – you many need to ask the “so what” question multiple times until you get to the real root cause. Being genuine is the key here. NOTE – This cannot be taught. You are either genuine or not, and people can figure that out.
  • Is this person interested in my perspective? When I share my view is the person really listening to me? Or, are they just waiting until I pause so they can insert additional supporting reasons for why they are right? Ever heard of “active listening”? Do you use it? Do they?
  • Last, ask them the question of this entry, “do you want to be happy or be right?”. Be prepared for the “what do you mean, response?”. It may stop someone in their tracks, the first time. Then everytime thereafter, they will ask themselves the question and possibly preempt the debate in the first place.

In closing, being right usually feels really good to the individual “being right”. It helps the self-confidence. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, its nice to be right, isn’t it? It definitely beats being wrong! Happy, on the other hand, creates room in a team for others to be right, and it allows you to provide input without focusing on being right.

Integrating Project and Change Management

On April 27, 2010 project & change management leaders came together in Las Vegas to discuss how and why project management and change management are integrated.

Prosci Global Change Management Conference

I recently had the great honor of speaking as a part of a panel at the 2010 Global Change Management conference hosted by Prosci ( and the Association of Change Management Professionals ( My esteemed fellow panelists were from Oracle, the Brighton Leadership Group, & the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and in spite of our varied industry backgrounds, we shared several perspectives on this subject. Whether you are a project manager or a change manager at heart, I think this quick excerpt from our perspective will resonate with your experiences:

  • Know your environment and begin your integration building on core competency. Where is your organizational maturity: Are you stronger in project management or change management? Build on what is already working well; learn lessons from what is not successful
  • Everyone must understand why the integration is happening and what it will accomplish. Answer the question, “What does success look like?”
  • Don’t disband the change team when the project “goes live” some resources need to support the change and manage resistance
  • Integration is not meant to be a tug-of-war
  • Project success depends more on stakeholder perception than on meeting project goals
  • Project completion doesn’t mean everything was accepted
  • Never, never, never stop learning
  • Stay 5 steps ahead of the change
  • Get all stakeholders involved; both supporters and resisters

We had a lively discussion with great participation from the audience including many Global and Fortune 500 companies. In the end, I would assert to you

  • While all surgeons are doctors, not all doctors are surgeons; While all change managers are project managers, not all project managers are change managers, and
  • Like the London tube: “Mind the Gap” – the gap in knowledge and skills. Knowledge of project or change management does not mean you are skilled at either, AND knowledge is a great start.

My thanks and appreciation goes out to my fellow panelists and the 350+ conference attendees for your participation and engagement at the conference.

Stay tuned for more discussion on this topic. In the meantime, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Why? Leave a Comment.

Which bucket are you operating in: “because of” or “in spite of”?

Want to know how you can positively impact your own skills profile, a one-on-one discussion, team discussion, or leadership team? Go get two buckets.

In the first bucket, place all your or others positive, encouraging, or productive comments. This is the “because of” bucket. Each of us are successful for different reasons. Think…”I am successful or effective ‘because of’ [insert reason here]”. How big is your “because of bucket”? What is in there? What would others say is in your “because of” bucket? Take inventory of the content of your “because of” bucket and leverage it.

In the second bucket is the “in spite of” attributes. Individuals, meetings, and teams are successful “in spite of” things too. Perform the same analysis here too. You are successful “in spite of” several attributes. Take inventory, and learn to minimaze or neutralize these attributes. By doing so, you will do yourself and your teams a favor.

In your change teams, practice the two buckets on a personal level to encourage development, and on a project and team level to marginalize bad behavior. The change agents in your teams should always look for “in spite of” behaviors, discussions, comments, and attitudes. Make this second nature, like walking or breathing. Get your teams to a point where they dont even think about the two buckets, they just instinctively “bucketize” things as a part of their normal course of business. Start with a personal assessment of yourself, and move out from there.

Everyday, challenge yourself and your teams, which bucket are you in? Is the change successful “because of” your actions or “in spite of” your actions?

What would you expect from a website dedicated to driving business change?

I am considering the possibility of building out a website dedicated to driving business change and business change leadership. I have many thoughts on what this site might look like but am interested in what the business change community wants to see. Please leave me a comment here. My initial list of topics includes but is not limited to:

  • Business Alignment
  • Business Strategy
  • Business Transformation
  • Debate
  • Delivery & Execution
  • Education & Training
  • IT Governance
  • Leadership
  • Quotes
  • Project Management
  • Resource Management
  • Tools & Techniques

I eagerly await your ideas and recommentations / comments.

Do you differentiate the type of change are you facing?

“With increased complexity comes a need for increased discipline and capability.”

In Beyond Change Management and The Change Leaders Roadmap, by Dean Anderson & Linder Ackerman Anderson, three different types of change are described:

  1. Developmental change,
  2. Transitional change, and
  3. Transformational change.

Developmental change means doing your current role better. Transitional change means doing your current role for a different “chain of authority”. Transformational change means completely redefiing the orgnization, strategy, and all the associated roles, products, processes, systems, cycles, technologies, skills, and culture. With this quick definition of change established as the context, diagnosing the degree of change across these three areas is 50% of the challenge. Providing a solution is the remaining 110%!

Why is this differentation of change  important? Developmental change happens everyday. A certain percentage of people seek to develop themselves naturally everyday. Business management classrooms refer to this as a “Theroy Y” management philosophy. For more on this topic check out the Wikipedia summary here. People come to work and want to do a good job, and grow themselves. Developmental change can be addressed through many traditional approaches. Give people the opportunity to make their skills better via classroom training, online training, etc. This has traditionally been supported very well by companies. I propose that classic training approaches have grown out of developmental change. It would be hard to find a person or team that does not have experience with developmental change.

Transitional change is more complex. Shepherding teams through transitional change has a greater impact on the affected companies. Examples of transitional change include being involuntarily outsourced, or “re-badged” in the IT or BPO outsourcing space, changing employers voluntarily, or even working overseas in a new culture. These transitional changes require a bit broader and more comprehensive learning experience. Learning a new language may be required for an overseas assignment. Learning new values and goals will most certainly be required in the case of voluntary or involuntary job change. All of these changes require more than a 3 day training class, an online tutorial, or podcast.

Now consider the case with Transformational change. How does an organization cope with change that redefines the orgnization, strategy, roles, products, processes, systems, cycles, technologies, skills, and culture? Where do you start? Will developmental approach work? Will transitional techniques suffice? Launching a new business in a new country is an example of transformational change. Another can be seen in with the success of Amazon’s Kindle. What type of impact do you this this change has on the traditional publishing industry? One last example can be found in the newspaper industry and how they are coping with online presence vs the traditional print product.

Most likely you have developmental change in your business everyday. You may or may not have transitional or transformational. Although to compete and win in the current global busines environment, you probably are dealing with these concepts. Recognize the type of change you are facing and put different capabilities in place to address the different types of change. This simple technique will greatly assist your change activites and help your stakeholders understand their environment a little better.