In this video Elizabeth Harrin discusses how merging engagement and gamification creates engagification, a methodology to help people take action on projects.

Watch the video to listen (about 30 minutes). If you prefer to read, there are closed captions in the video or there’s also a transcript underneath the video.

Transcript

Hello, everybody. My name is Elizabeth Harrin. And welcome to this presentation on stakeholder engagification.
We’ll be talking about how to get people to take action on projects.

Here’s an overview of what we’re going to look at today.

What we’ll cover

We’ll be talking about how to encourage participation on projects through the mechanics of games.

So what does that even mean? Well, today we’re covering the what and the how of engaging stakeholders on projects.
I will start by talking about what knowledge I’m assuming from you so that you can check this is the right presentation for you to be in.

  • We’ll look at what is gamification in projects and crucially, how it helps to make a difference to stakeholders and therefore why you should at least be considering using it.
  • And I’ll be sharing the five principles of gamification on projects for you to use with your teams. And I will come back to that term, engagification in a moment.
  • So we’ll look at how to use those principles to support your team’s drive engagement throughout the PMO and encourage stakeholders to take action.
  • And finally, I have three do tomorrow tips for you that you can take away from this presentation and put into practise very straightforward, in a very straightforward way tomorrow or whenever you next go back to work right before we get started.

Knowledge check

I wanted to share with you what I assume you already know so that you can check your in the right place.
I believe you already have a knowledge of a stakeholder management principles.

Personally, I have an issue with the term stakeholder management, but I’m going to assume that you’ve got the basics covered.

So this presentation is not going to talk about how to identify and assess stakeholders to better understand how you need them to show up to the project.

I also believe that you’ve got a plan for Project Communications again, this presentation isn’t going to cover the basics of identifying what comms you need to do on a project and who gets them.

Instead, we’ll be looking at principles for how that you can build into your existing communications plan.
While I’ve got some practical suggestions and tips for implementation, I’m afraid you’re going to have to work out which of these work best in your environment so you can apply them to your projects.

Finally, I’m assuming that you work in a project or programme environment within the context of a PMO. Now these principles are still relevant to you, even if you do not work in a formal PMO environment.

But if you hear me talk about PMOs throughout the presentation, then that is why. So you’re in the right place if you want to learn more about Gamification and how it applies to project management or if you’re struggling to get busy stakeholders to engage with the work that you’re doing on your project or your change initiative.

Definition of engagement

I also thought it would be useful to share my definition of engagement before we dive in so that we’re all on the same page. I define engagement like this.

Understanding plus action plus influence gives you engagement.

Essentially, it’s all about working with people to build support so that you can achieve the intended outcomes for your project. So let’s break that down.

The core aspects of engagement, are understanding, your stakeholder perspectives and building, trusting relationships, taking some kind of action and then influencing stakeholder perspectives to shape the work in the direction of the intended outcomes.

So as you can see on the screen these that is a formula.

If you put those aspects into a formula, you get this understanding plus action plus influence equals engagement.
But who am I to be putting forward my own definition of engagement?

About me

I realized I haven’t had a moment to introduce myself properly yet, but I’m Elizabeth Harrin.
I’m a fellow of the Association for Project Management here in the UK, and I’ve written a number of books about project management as well, and I’m particularly interested in stakeholders the way we work together in teams.
And that’s what led me to investigate the concepts and principles of Gamification on projects.

So I’ve talked about Gamification a lot so far already, and I haven’t explained what I mean by that.
So that’s what we look at next.

Okay, let’s get started with the first part of our discussion today, which is the what.

What is a Gamification?

Here’s how APM defines Gamification in their guide.

Gamification techniques to tap into an influence people’s natural desires for competition, achievement, recognition and self expression.

You can see the reference to the guide there. It’s available online. I think it’s a little bit outdated and old.

Now Gamification theory has moved on, I think, especially in the world of business and projects in particular, but the definition is definitely still relevant. And that’s what I am using to shape the way that I’m talking about Gamification today.

But let’s give you some practical examples.

Types of gamification

Here are some examples of the types of Gamification you probably see regularly, not necessarily in a business context.
We might have frequent flyer programmes.

If you travel or did travel, you might have a loyalty card or loyalty points that you collect when you shop online or on a real shop, you might see countdown calendar is like an Advent calendar or something else that counts down to a particular moment in time, and you might see badges as well.

If you’re participating in forums, you can see here on the slide.

This is the Facebook badge system, and you can see the comment that I’ve made is marked with the badge saying that I’m an admin because I’m an admin of that particular Facebook group so people can see my role in the group, and badges give you that sense of belonging as well.

So there are different types of badges available, and you can see them in forums.

Or you might collect stars if you participate in an online community or something like that. So those are a few different types of gamification that you probably see and perhaps haven’t really associated with gamification. But you probably have seen those in your daily life.

Is gamification useful for work?

So let me ask you then, do you think gamification is useful and appropriate for work?
Or is it basically some kind of fad?

Think about what assumptions you hold about gamification, especially in a workplace environment today and have those in mind as we go through the session. Perhaps by the end of this presentation, I will have managed to change your mind or perhaps even confirm your beliefs.
So let’s see.

Gamification gets people to take action using the techniques and mechanics of games.

So why is it relevant to us on projects?

Gamification in project management

I look at the world that projects working the project environment that we have, and I know that project delivery involves getting work done through other people.

We need to have engagement on projects because we want them to engage with us with the process and with the PMO, the people in the PMO and the reporting process that we have to do as part of the way the projects are managed professionally within our organization.

We also want to encourage action taking when we’re working with other people.
It’s really important that we get them to take action and to do their project tasks and that if we can make that even a tiny bit more fun and easier for them, we might encourage them to prioritize their work that they need to do for us.
Okay, so that’s the positive side of why we need people to engage with us on our project as you probably.

There’s probably nothing there that you weren’t already expecting because when we don’t have engagement and I’m sure you would have seen some of these problems before as well, people don’t pay attention.

You can email them or you can chat with them as much as you like, but the message goes in one ear and out the other.
As we would say here in the UK it means they’re not listening.

They’re not paying attention to what you want them to do, and they don’t do their tasks As a project manager.
We need people to act on what they say they’re going to do and deliver things on time because if they don’t it has an implication for the successful delivery of the project overall.

So we need them to act on their tasks and if they’re not doing what we ask of them, that can have an issue for us.
The other thing that might be an issue is if they are not committed to the delivery of the project, they don’t complete their tasks as we’ve talked about.

They don’t perhaps understand or believe in the process or the journey and they don’t understand what project management can bring to the table.

So not only are we engaging them with the actual activities we want them to do, we want them to engage with us as project professionals and in the process is strategic strategies, techniques that we use in order to be able to deliver the work.

So engagement and gamification we’ve talked about them and it is now time to bring those two together.
So if we blend the concepts of engagement and gamification, we get engagification. Now, I’m not sure If that’s a real word, I think it is.

Engagification: engaging stakeholders in project management

Now it’s in a project context.

Engagification is enhancing stakeholder into actions and enhancing stakeholder engagement through those gamification techniques.

Now I’ll be honest with you, gamification is not going to work in every project context for every stakeholder.
So it is something you can have in your toolbox.

And then as and when you see it is an appropriate time, you can use the tools. It’s just going to bring a little bit more fun to your projects and give you some more opportunities to build in ways to engage with your team and with your stakeholders.

So are you ready to find out what that looks like in real life?

5 principles of stakeholder engagement and gamification

Okay, now we come to the second part of our presentation today, which is the how Let’s look at those five principles of stakeholder engagement.

The five principles are:

  1. Track your steps
  2. Take small actions
  3. Create feedback loops
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Make it special.

So let’s look at each of those in context. The first principle is track your steps.

1. Track your steps

I want you to show people where they are in the journey for the project and help them visualize how much progress has been made and what they’re still is left to do in games.

You will have seen this. I’m sure yourself that it looks like this. So this is an example of a game. I play on my iPad and you can see that there are some levels that have been unlocked and some still have the little padlock sign, which means that I can’t go there yet. So that is telling me the journey.

It shows me the linear progression of levels as I get better at the game and what I’ve still got left to do. So that’s one way that you can see it.

And this is another game that I play as well. I think this one is called Two Dots and again you can see there’s a graphic in the background with a line and each level is marked on. You can see that, the level I’ve got to do next has got flames coming out of it, which means it’s extra hard.

So there’s visual prompts about what that journey might look like for me and where I’m going and I can scroll backwards as well and see how far I’ve come.

That’s fine for games. But how does that work work in a project or business context?

Well monday.com, I’ve just picked one of many different software providers, and they use their the same principle for their software onboarding.

It’s very simple to do this in your own project environment as well. It’s super easy to create a timeline or a process like this. A road map very straightforward In this one I did in PowerPoint.

You can show the process, and then you can highlight where the process is focusing at any given moment in your communications or presentations. This one here is a real process. It’s the patient journey as they come into a hospital. My background is in health care, and I spent 12 years managing projects in a healthcare setting. So this is the journey for a patient.

Before they are aware of their treatment, they might have some symptoms. Then they are referred into the hospital by their doctor. They booked their appointment, they attend for their treatment, and then they’re discharged after their operational procedure. Whatever they had.

So you can see here. That’s a really clear roadmap, and we can highlight a step in the roadmap to to show people what we’re talking about at any given point in the project. Now there’s another way of doing this as well.

If your project does not really follow such a linear map and this is highlighting progress by milestones, this is a way of simply saying we’ve got four large chunks of the project to do, and these are the different milestones that will be completing at every step.

This is not a real project, but you can see how something like that might be applicable to yours.

This is again an example of how you can do a visual roadmap when your project is not quite as a roadmap and linear as perhaps you would like.

This is a real project that we worked on, and we had functional work streams and then cross cutting services. Because real initiatives don’t always fit into a linear plan, the point still says the same.

You try to create a visual graphic that represents the journey and experience of your project so you can use that and embedded in your communications, highlighting various segments to make people instantly aware of where you are in the project, what you’ve completed and where you still have work to do.

So a question for you. Do you use road maps for projects and programs that you work on to show the journey? And if you don’t, what’s the reason behind doing that?

Is there something that you could perhaps challenge within your PMO to see whether or not you could adapt and make some graphics that show roadmaps?

Takeaways for ways to track your steps, create some high level visual maps and plans for the journey and signpost where you are.

You can also number your emails. So I did this when I was counting down to a particular go life, and I sent out emails saying three weeks ago, Four weeks to go.

We are tracking our steps by making it easy for people, and you can do that with numbering emails, one of one of 52 or five letting people know how many more messages from you they have to read. Before this thing is done, you can set targets as well. So how many bugs have you squashed as a team this week? How many tasks have you moved in your campaign board? How many projects has the PMO closed this month?

Things like that give people very visual and numerical ways to track their progress.

2. Take small actions

The second principle is taking small actions, and here we are asking for small engagements before we ask for a bigger effort from them.

And we want to make it easy. So small Engagement, perhaps, would be something like going for coffee.

And I’ll give you an example of how this works. Facebook does this very, very well. They have multiple different ways that you can engage with the face of the Facebook platform and content, and they take all of them. Take not very much effort in compared to what we do on projects. But they take varying degrees of effort and commitment from the Facebook user, starting with stopping the scroll so you will select something to look at.

Then you can click to read more on the post your video. They’ll track watch time as well. So how long did you actually watch that video? How long did you sit and engage with that piece of content?

They will check whether or not you click through to look at something on a website or whether you like it. Did you save the content to look at later? You can comment with just an emoji or a thumbs up or yes or something very short.
Or you could spend more time crafting a couple of paragraphs in response to a post.

You can share it with your friends. You can tag your friends in post as well. So there’s a number of different ways that Facebook asks you to do small actions first, like perhaps clicking that you like something.

As you engage more with the content, you could perhaps up your commitment.

And this is the foot in the door technique. It’s a way of getting small engagements before you start asking people for more effort.

This is an email, and you can set dates within an email to use voting buttons. That’s a very small thing that you’re asking people to do is vote on a particular outcome for this email. Whatever question is that you’re asking. This one asks about dates. When could you come along and you can just click the voting buttons and you’re done?

That’s a very small engagement that we’re asking for.

The foot in the door technique has been talked about quite a lot, and you might know about it already from the work of Robert Cialdini in his book Influence. He talks about that, and he gives the example of asking people to sign a petition about a particular social campaign that they’re interested in. And then you can escalate from there so you might then ask them to put a poster in the window. Or you might then ask them to put a placard on the lawn.

Or you might ask them for a donation because they’ve said yes to the previous request.

You’re only asking for a small shift in behaviour for each step going forward, so we want to make it easy for people to say yes to us.

So how can you put this principle into your work? Well, there’s various different ways that you can take small actions, and we’ve talked about emails with voting buttons.

But here’s another couple of examples that you can use on your projects.

Ask a question, be very straightforward and just ask something that’s really quite engaging but simple, like, how do you think your department might be affected by this change, and then you can find out what their response will be before.
Perhaps you ask the bigger thing of now. Can we have a resource from your team to support the work of the project?

You can also provide a template answer. So I did this on a process change project where I needed a member of the staff in each different location to confirm that they had taken action.

So instead of having to make them write an email, I simply included in my email the exact template response I needed with a opportunity for them just adding the thing that they had done a blank like a fill in the blank template.
All they had to do was reply on the message.

They didn’t have to type anything new scroll to the right place in my message, which was only a couple of paragraphs long enter their response and hits, and they were done so adding template answers where they can just drop in a response is another way to make it really, really easy for them to take a small step to engage with you.

And I showed you the example of voting buttons on emails, which is fantastic for meeting dates.

3. Create feedback loops

The third principle is creating feedback loops. If you’re playing games, you get immediate feedback. Did you pass the level or not? Do you advance forward or not? You also see this in app notifications.

So if you’ve ever been on one of your social media apps and seeing the little Bell icon or a red alert that says how many notifications you’ve got that is creating the feedback loop that says, you’ve got something, come back to us. Look at it, read it.

They give you feedback on your experience because you get a response as well, from your friends and followers on their social channels.

We see this as well with tools. Apps help you do this with virtual teams, for example, during a retrospective where you are collecting feedback from your team despite the fact that they might not actually work in the same office as you, and you have to use a tool to go out and collect that feedback.

Virtually, there’s a number of different tools here. As you can see, they all have various different pros and cons.

Jamboard is a Google service that is free, and you can use it to gather feedback where you will work on a shared whiteboard, for example, and other tools have different features where you can ask questions within an agile environment, and gather feedback as you were doing a project retrospective.

So my next question for you.

Do you have a simple way for stakeholders to get in touch with the project team? And more importantly, are they actually using it?

We want to create those feedback loops, so how can we do it?

Well, you can follow up with people. The easiest way to get feedback is just to talk to the people that you work with.

Regularly put calendar alerts into your diary so that once a month you are prompted to drop someone an email, make a phone call or just catch up with someone in the office about how they think the project is going.

You can also practically ask for feedback so you can run those lessons learned. You can use retrospectives, and you can use the stop start continue activity as well to look at what’s going well, what activities you want to stop doing what you want to start doing and what you’re going to continue to use as a team.

So build those moments for lessons learned and reflection back into your project plan. You can do that today so that you’ve got those those points where you’re continually looking at the feedback from the team about how you are working together.

4. Keep it simple

The next principle is to keep it simple, stick to one message at a time and have one outcome per topic or email.
Now I think this is a really clear way to communicate with people.

But again, as I said at the beginning of this session, you’ll have to work out whether or not this this is an appropriate strategy to use with your projects.

I can tell you about how I worked with the legal team and we found this one topic, one outcome option for them really didn’t work for the senior lawyers in the in the team because they were being bombarded with hundreds of emails from their junior team members on a very regular basis during the day.

They felt that was overwhelming and they weren’t providing a great service in support to the people that they were mentoring. So what we decided to do instead from a time management perspective, was to make sure that the people they were working with the junior members of the team were using one email entering into it throughout the day, all of the different questions that they had and then sending that about four o’clock in the afternoon so that the senior members of the team had the chance to read and provide feedback and support on that day’s work.

That meant you had one email, but you had multiple questions within it.

However, that works best for the team.

I would say, though, that if you are reaching out to a stakeholder community and asking them 10 different things in one email or 10 different things on one conference call, then you may well find that engagement drops because it’s just too overwhelming and they don’t know which one to answer.

First, they don’t know which ones they have answered and haven’t. So. If you can try to keep your message is simple.
The next thing to think about is to remember to meet them where they are.

Don’t assume that they have prior knowledge because they might not have it. So do some research.

Put your good stakeholder management theories into practise and encourage tailoring communications throughout the project team so that people get the information that they really need.

Here are some examples of how you can keep things simple.

This is a YouGov survey that was around project management, and it was one question per page. That’s what I liked particularly about it, because it was a very simple thing to do. You clicked. You completed this question. There’s the track bar at the top, which goes back to the track, your steps principle and you can click through.

So when you have to answer one question at the time, this is another tool, Process Street, which gives you a checklist.
The checklist is another way to keep things very simple, and you are working through the tasks that are highlighted on the screen.

You can tick them off and move on to the next one. Tick them off, move on to the next one. So you’re not overwhelming people with the amount of work that they have to do all in one go.

How can you make this real on your projects?

Well, here are some practical ways to keep your project communications simple.

  • Stick to the goals.
  • Stick to the objectives.
  • Aim for simple content but also simple delivery.

So you’re looking for short sentences and paragraphs and matching the detail to their prior knowledge and using checklists as well where you can, because that helps people structure their own thought process.

It’s also important to be mobile friendly so that you’re not giving people too much information that they cannot read on a mobile device. Because we all know our colleagues work virtually so much these days, as do we so things you can do.

There are things like avoiding people, having to use passwords to log in unless you really have to for company confidentiality and security reasons. So try to just be aware of how people are consuming your messages as well as what the message says.

5. Make it special

Our fifth principle is make it special. We want to celebrate success and also progress. People like to be rewarded for their contribution.

Most people don’t expect it because we will turn up to work to do a fantastic job and you know, but it is nice when people say thank you and they take the time out of their day to acknowledge what we’ve achieved.

So people tend to really appreciate and love being recognized, and that’s so easy to make happen. Games do this all the time. You’ll get access to a new level or you’ll unlock something for your character.

Something unexpected might happen, and it just makes you feel, you know, they’ve appreciated my effort in playing the game. I’ve been rewarded in some way. Here’s an example. This is one of my children’s favorite games.

This is a Lego game, and if you deliver a character to the correct floor in this building, you or elevator, as we say in the elevator or the lift, you would get some coins. They don’t just appear in your account. There’s a whole full on rain shower of golden coins all over the screen to mark the occasion of you achieving this particular task and completing the task.

There’s a hidden objects game that I play on my iPad, and this is a a screenshot from that you can see the rewards that I’ve earned from doing the puzzles and playing the game. It’s also a little bit of a visual map because it shows the elements where I didn’t get gold stars for what I was doing and that I might want to go back and revisit those areas and improve my performance.

So it’s feedback, too. So here it says, I’m a brainiac. I’ve got quick fingers. These are all positive things that people want to be associated with. If you’re successful in the game, you collect the badge, you collect the accolade and you can see that you’ve still got some steps on the journey still to go.

So this is actually a screenshot that comprises so many of the different principles I’ve talked about today.

Celebrating success by awarding people prizes, virtual prizes but also tracking steps, providing feedback and giving you that visual roadmap to so next question for you.

When was the last time that you celebrated success with your team?

Now I ask people this a lot, and I often get a mixed bag of responses from people who do this on a very regular basis and who already have the mindset of building in success celebrations throughout the team and the project life cycle.

Those are the project managers on one side, and then there are other project managers who do not have the time or the energy or the budget, perhaps to help celebrate success with their teams.

And perhaps, if you fall into that category and you haven’t had a chance to celebrate for some time, you can use some of these ideas to help you plan your next celebration.

You can make your project special by celebrating things like your project launch. So kick off something and then be happy that that’s happened.

You can celebrate progress hitting different milestones, but it doesn’t just have to be about celebrating.

It’s also about creating a fun culture at work so you could have in your stand up meetings make a rule that says, on Fridays, you won’t talk about work. You’ll talk about things that are doing at the weekend or the general chat that helps build team cohesion and build trusted relationships within those people who attend that meeting, you can celebrate different milestones, or you can mark the passing of the milestone.

These can be related to your project or perhaps your team members, team members and people. So you could say the team has been established for a year or you could celebrate milestones related to particular individuals, perhaps because of birthdays or other cultural celebrations that are important to them, or just how long they’ve been involved with the project.

For example, one way I did this with my team was we were working on a program that lasted a few years, and I bought everybody a bottle of wine from the year that they joined the project team. So little things like that you can just just do for fun.

You can also do a scavenger hunt, and you can do that in person or virtually you can go out for an event or you could just play buzzword Bingo, anything to liven up those, those zoom calls and those conferences that you do right?
Those were our five principles of stakeholder engagification.

So to summarize what we’ve talked about today, you track your steps, take small actions, create feedback loops, keep it simple and make it special.

We’ve covered the what of Gamification. We’ve covered the how I’ve given you some practical tips for the things that you can do on your projects to put these principles into action and also how to use those principles to support your project teams by trying to build some more fun and engagement into the process to allow people to take action on projects and participate in the way that you want them to.

However, I also said that I would be leaving you with some takeaway tips that you can do tomorrow or whenever your next back in the office to put these into practise.

Because I know I’ve given you a lot of information today. So let me share those tips with you.

How to use gamification at work

Yeah, the first thing you can do is find an opportunity where you can use voting buttons in an email this week.

Hopefully, that’s something very simple and that you will be able to take away and do straight away.

The next thing I’d recommend that you do is create a visual map for your project or program so you can start using that regularly in communications and people will get used to seeing it.

And finally, I think it’s important that you check there is a feedback loop in place check.

It’s easy for people to get in contact with you and make sure that if there isn’t that you put in place a team inbox. Or you put in place something at the bottom of your emails, where you’ve got a phone number or an email address where they can get in touch with you and you can keep those feedback channels open.

In summary

That’s been our view of what gamification is in a project management context and how you can adopt some simple principles to encourage participation in your projects, using what makes games so successful, which is what we want to learn from.

We spend so much time at work that I think it’s really important that it’s fun and that it’s productive and we all feel like we’re contributing and getting stuff done, because as project managers, that could be very motivating.

I sincerely hope I’ve shared some things today that will help you achieve that.

Thank you very much for watching.

This article first appeared at Rebel’s Guide to Project Management

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