Scrum is by far the most popular agile methodology. But it requires a specific set of conditions and practices that can be hard to align in agile adoption on an enterprise level.

When there are tens of teams involved in a transformation, each team with its own unique needs and practices, a good approach to improving team engagement and driving the desired practice adoption is gamification. How does gamification work? By building games in non-game contexts and rewarding players for completing desired activities.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

During the initial days of our scrum transformation, this idea fascinated us, and we wanted to use the power of gamification to drive our scrum adoption through practice and gradual learning. The result was something we would come to call “FLIP”.

The End Game

We wanted them to finish their current sprints well, do the retrospective, make sure they identified items to focus on during the next sprint, and plan the sprint effectively and in time for the upcoming sprint. Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? However, anyone who has done transformations in large enterprises when the ecosystem is just starting to warm up to agile knows that this is anything but basic.

Making the FLIP

“Let’s FLIP” was the slogan we came up with that would represent a team successfully doing the FLIP.

FLIP stands for:

F – We finished our current sprint fully (meaning, we managed to finish all our user stories and/or the ones we didn’t get to finish were discussed with the product owner and re-planned for future sprints)

L – We did our retrospective to learn for the future

I – Our retrospective resulted in specific items that we can focus on to improve in the next sprint

P – We did the sprint planning ceremony as prescribed and are ready to begin execution for the next sprint.

Keeping Score

For all of the items in the FLIP, a checklist was prepared, which guided the team on specifics of what was expected of them. Given the teams were also using a new agile lifecycle management tool at the time, it also helped to ensure correct behavior on the tool usage.

To make it more fun, physical boards were set up and teams that had “FLIP-ed” were encouraged to take a selfie and put it up on the board together with their marked checklist. To prevent it from being perceived as a monitoring tool, no one other than the teams themselves were checking if the criteria were really achieved. There was only “self-evaluation”.

To encourage more proactiveness and positive behavior, teams that achieved the FLIP by the first half of the first day of the new sprint got higher points (+10) than teams that finished later that day (+5). Teams that finished beyond that did not get any points.

The Outcome

The exercise was really successful and resulted in the successful outcomes on many fronts:

  1. Better understanding. The scrum teams actually delved into the details of the process (because to win they had to go over the checklist). This resulted in a much wider population having a detailed understanding of the new process.
  2. A few teams responded with feedback now that they understood the process better. This resulted in overall improvement and refinement of the process and alignment to the context.
  3. More teams were following scrum in a disciplined way and the “new status quo” was achieved much faster!

Using gamification for scrum adoption got us better outcomes. It helped us boost motivation, better the engagement and drive positive behavioral change in the teams. Most important of all, the teams loved the process and had fun.

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Hrishikesh (Hrishi) Karekar leads a team of Agile Coaches in Amdocs. He is passionate about transforming individuals and teams and taking them on a journey of excellence and accomplishment. For Hrishi, Agile is not about implementing processes, but transforming people’s mindsets – to deliver better ROI and real business benefits.

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