Monday, December 23, 2013

Using simple gamification to radically boost performance.

Gamification typically involves applying game design thinking to non-game applications to enhance engagement. Gamification can make almost anything fun and engaging bringing out the player in any of us.
Gamification isn’t just about setting up a formal game-like environment such as a frequent flyer program.  It can subtly tap into people’s natural love for the game, any game where there’s something at stake and a way to play with it.  That can dramatically change performance outcomes.
Case Set-up - This was a real bank case, staff = 120 FTE. Credit card chargeback processing on behalf of merchant customers for the largest merchant processor bank in the country was severely backlogged and suffering large financial losses because chargeback cases have time limits.  If you miss the timeframe you must eat the charge.  Problem: How to eliminate the backlog – Teamwork
Although the chargeback volume was large, within a single reason code it could vary greatly week to week.  Thus, incoming volume was unpredictable.   The first, and most important, measure of productivity was the current nature of the work.  Non-document chargebacks should be completed within ten days.  Document chargebacks should be worked within ten days of receiving the documents.  All files needed to be resolved before their time frame expired.
If the chargeback desk was current and had no work to do, the person responsible for the desk could go work on someone else’s desk and get credit for that work too.  The person who owned the desk would also get credit since it helped them maintain a current desk.
Initially HR objected to this measurement method since it could result in two people getting credit for one person’s work.  Bobby pointed out that success for the bank here was to maintain processing at a “current” level—thus no losses.  Any measurement system that helped the bank achieve that should be encouraged.  The HR manager pointed out that double counting could mean several people would achieve an outstanding performance rating.  “Look,” Bobby pointed out. “The unit has been losing money year in and year out, and we’re on track to lose eight million dollars this year ($67,000 per employee).  Wouldn’t it be outstanding if we could bring the loss rate to zero?”
“Well of course it would,” answered the HR manager.
“And if achieving that outstanding result, required the entire team, then wouldn’t they all be outstanding performers?”
“Yes, of course,” said the HR manager.  “But that’s not how things are done around here.”
“Well,  perhaps,” said Bobby.  “Let’s see what actually happens, and cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Within three weeks, a couple of the hardest working of the chargeback desk experts were current on their own desks and had helped others get their desks to current status.  One morning one of the unit’s supervisors came to Bobby to report that two of the people had traded desks and were working each other’s inventory.  They were gaming the system.
Bobby laughed.  “Good for them!”
“Won’t they each get credit for the other person’s work?” asked the supervisor.
“Indeed,” answered Bobby.  “But look at how much trust it takes to let someone else manage the work for which you’re performance is measured.  If a file gets screwed up and becomes a loss, it is a huge black mark on the desk.  What we are seeing is teamwork and trust.  I’ll happily give credit for that.  Besides, now we have two people who can work either desk!”
In short order, the ‘trading desks’ practice spread throughout the unit.  Losses were brought to zero in five weeks and stayed there.  It was an outstanding performance and the department was exempted from the bank’s forced ranking performance measurement system.

This case is excerpted from the book Advantage: Business Competition in the New Normal.
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