How to gamify your team goals to hack success
STOP. Think about the last time YOU WON.
What was it?
- Did you score the winning run in your adult kickball league last weekend?
- Still reminiscing about that hole-in-one at the corporate golf tournament last fall?
What did WINNING feel like?
- Was it a sense of accomplishment and achievement?
- Were you filled with pride at a job well done?
When was the last time you felt like a winner at work versus just a hamster in a wheel running round and round? Winning requires a defined finish line. After all, how can you be #1 in your industry without a comparison point for #2 and #3? At work, leaders often fail to define the rules of the game and a clear finish line.
Think of a football field. The white lines running up the length of the sidelines allow the players to know the boundaries – these are your small business’s core values. Employees cannot step outside those lines in order to keep playing for the team.
But what about the end zone? If I cannot see it as an employee, how can the team strategize and propel ourselves toward achieving that internal high of “TOUCHDOWN!!!!”
Gamification at work is a terrific tool in our management toolbelt that can raise our employee engagement and play on our natural desire to win – together as a team.
Two of the most common reasons I’ve seen strategic plans fail at implementation:
- Lack of focus on a clear goal
- Lack of urgency to reach the goal line
There are two business concepts that cure this ailment: mini-games and themes.
Mini-games & themes
“Mini-games” are from the Jack Stack theory on gamification in the workplace, and quarterly “themes” are from Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up system. The many plethora of books from both thought leaders foster a fun and competitive spirit with the aim of generating natural excitement and focus around the execution of your organization’s plan.
Personally, the Leadership Teams I’m coaching like both programs, so I encourage a hybrid approach. We set a “Scaling Up” quarterly theme as an entire company for the overall vibe, name, and imagery. Then establish department-level mini-games from Jack Stack’s “Great Game of Business” that are directly tied into the overall theme. Let me explain step by step how this hybrid approach works to hack your way to success!
Basic Example: Your overall company theme may be a core value of “Persistence pays off” – all your posters, emails, and images will be company-wide to hammer home that theme. Each department manager will choose a critical number of how persistence pays off in their department – a specific KPI or Critical Number that can be tracked daily on a scoreboard as a team. Your warehouse may decide that accurate cycle counts is where their persistence pays off, so they create a mini-game around that process. Your sales team may decide that the number of first-time appointments is where they need to focus their persistence, so they create a scoreboard and discuss it in their daily huddles, celebrating the small wins along the way. Each team tracks what’s critical to them, increasing their engagement because it’s “close to home.”
If you want a real 13-week race to the finish line each quarter, follow these 6 simple steps for establishing a company’s overarching theme and then creating department-level mini-games to define what winning feels like.
1. Define the challenge to solve as an organization
Discuss the on-hand issues or current problems with your leadership team. See if an emerging “theme” connects any of these challenges several departments are having. Select one key theme for the whole company to focus on for a 90-Day Sprint this quarter. Ensure you’re addressing a real priority, as the company theme can represent your core constraint and give teammates three whole months to reflect on how to turn that constraint into an opportunity.
2. Come up with a fun name for the company theme
Persistence Pays – for example. You can pull a lot of inspiration by typing your keywords into Google or seeking popular movies like Mission Impossible and Top Gun. It should be easily explained, ready to rally behind, and quick to imagine the graphics that can link the emotion, the intention, and the outcome.
3. Set a measurable outcome per department
This is where I find it helpful to separate Verne Harnish’s overall company theme in Scaling Up with Jack Stack’s mini-games in the Great Game of Business. Your theme is #1 and #2. Your Measurable outcomes, however, can easily NOT translate well if you set one critical number for the entire organization to achieve. If you set New Revenue as a target, then how engaged do your delivery team and back office admin staff feel when they don’t actively participate in new sales leads each day? Enter department-level mini games!! Each must have a KPI goal… a clear finish line to shout TOUCHDOWN!
4. Create mini-game scoreboards per department
Sports like football, baseball, and soccer (as well as Olympic themes) seem to work well because they have scoreboards and easy-to-understand levels of achievement. Example: Got 4 departments? If one department hits its mini-game out of the park, the company earns a Single that week. If two of the four hit their KPI, the company earns a double that week. Inch your way as a group toward a Home Run with all 4 of 4 departments hitting their KPIs at the same time!
5. Motivate with rewards & celebration
We win and lose as a team! No individual rewards, just team incentives to create a competitive spirit and gamify our metric. A “reward” is tangible, whereas a “celebration” is an event. Because everyone on your team has different motivations, personalities, and things they’ll enjoy – be sure to choose from a wide variety over time, so you cycle through a lot of options. You’ll need to choose small department rewards/celebrations versus a company-wide reward/celebration. What will you do to celebrate if a team hits their department goal week after week? What would you do if ALL the teams hit their department goal by the end of the Quarter? Example: Some of my clients have made Horse Race scoreboards. Each team picks a horse, jockey, and color. Every time they achieve their mini-game metric week to week, their horse moves down the company track. Everyone in the company can see the department horses neck and neck, achieving their race. Week by week, each department draws a $25 gift card within their team if they hit the critical number. A larger $100 gift card prize is given to each person on the team who crosses the finish line first (early), but if all horses cross the finish line by the end of the 13-Week Race, there’s a company celebration, such as a family picnic at Remington Park.
6. The devils in the details
Themes help build a culture of transparency. The key outcomes are tracked for everyone to see. Achieving success as a team can be fun again! It should start with a memorable kickoff/announcement. Think about: office decorations, visible scoreboard displays, digital scoreboards for remote workers, Zoom background images, daily huddles, weekly check-ins, all-hands meeting agendas, Slack channels, emails, etc. Themes help execution remain focused on the goal. Roadmap exactly what you’ll do for 13 weeks in a row to keep that momentum and success pumping through the hallways.
Why gamify my team goals?
Scaling Up and the Great Game of Business both believe the gamification of goals plays to the instant gratification of today’s society. It’s instant rewards within a quick 13-week timeline for a feeling of shared satisfaction and success as a team. Themes and mini-games are designed to build teamwork, affect change, reinforce business metrics, and develop a winning attitude.
Jack Stack’s “Stake in the Outcome” believes people support what they help create. Mini-games don’t have to be top-down, developed in an off-site board retreat. The THEME should be chosen by leadership! The mini-game should be department-driven toward results and celebrating a win with rewards and recognition that the department would earnestly care about! Two distinctively different ideas merge as one.
Try a company theme and department-driven mini-game next quarter if you want to:
- Create a Culture of Winning
- Affect change
- Strengthen the business through improved performance
- Teach players to track, measure, and forecast team activity
- Boost workgroup and departmental accomplishment
- Focus on an operational or financial number that represents a weakness or an opportunity
- Be challenged to find solutions to current problems
- Celebrate your wins
- Show each member how they can contribute to team success
- Change a system, process, or behavior that will stick long after the mini-game is over
- “Build a business of businesspeople” through metric education on why it matters
- Encourage goal setting, mutual responsibility, and performance management
If you are already a believer in the gamification of office metrics but need help dreaming up new ideas for your office rewards and celebrations? Here’s a cheat sheet, perfect for when you’re stumped!
Ideas for rewards and celebrations:
- Choosing the office playlist for the day
- Getting a special parking spot
- Getting out of a certain responsibility for the day
- Swapping jobs with someone else – like CEO for the Day or Supervisor for the Day
- Prize wheel – spin to get a chance to win what’s on the wheel
- House cleaning services
- Gift Card of team choosing
- Permission to Leave early for one half-day of their choosing, redeemable within the next 60 days
- Baked goods, catering lunch, food trucks, coffee trucks, snow cone/ice cream trucks, etc.
- Healthy reward of 3-month gym membership
- Company apparel
- Potluck chili cook-off, or queso cook-off, hosted by the “losing team” for the winners
- Bring your dog to work day
- Working from home 1 day a week for 1 month as a special reward
- In-office chair massage day
- Give a public thank you with a personal handwritten note from the CEO/manager
- Give small personal gifts
- Cover commuting cost of gas from home to work for 6 months
- Provide them with event or festival ticket
- Schedule a Happy Hour for the team
- Invest in their continued education – local classes, online classes, or Masterclass access online
- Mentions in company newsletters
- Additional days off to make a 3-Day Weekend for 1 winning team
- Scavenger hunts
- CEO for the day
- Charity gala ticket
- Laundry services for their home for 3 months
- Movie tickets
- Steaming subscriptions
- Murder mystery party
- Employee pitch night
- Spa day
- Cooking lessons
- Karaoke day
- Tailoring services
- Recognition bulletin board
- Team shopping spree
- TopGolf, iFly, or Chicken and Pickle
- Team outing to sports event
- Escape room experience
- Winery or Brewery team outing
As a business coach, it’s been my pleasure over the last several years to help entrepreneurs create a winning culture with gamification. Email me if you’d like to request a 30-minute personalized coaching session at email@example.com.
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About Stacy Eads
Edmond native & UCO Alumna, Stacy Eads, is an award-winning “Most Admired CEO” who scaled her company as a Woman in Tech before becoming an International Scaling Up Business Coach. She now empowers other CEOs from $2M to $200M to embrace their leadership potential through quarterly strategic planning. Her talent is in high demand to CEO Coach, Train Teams, and Speak at Events in both the U.S.A. and Canada.
Stacy Eads’ career affiliations include 50 Women Making a Difference award, Circle of Excellence award, Torch Ethics award, Most Admired CEO award, Edmond Chamber & UCO Mentor, Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma Board of Directors, TEDx OKC Speaker Coach, and Ambassador Chairwoman for the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce.