Gamifying Agile Development to Boost Productivity

Agile development, when executed well, is a thing of beauty. A sprint starts, stories/tasks are assigned. People start working in a test-driven manner and the system comes to life piece after piece. With each sprint new functionality is delivered. Refactoring is ongoing. The system architecture is always close to the conceptual ideal. Stakeholders are happy. Developers are happy. Everybody is happy.

And then, there is the real world–pressure, mid sprint changes, unclear requirements, tests without much coverage, technical debt mounting, production systems crashing, etc. With agile development that’s not supposed to happen, but agile practices require dedication and discipline from all stakeholders–including top management, which is not always there. Even at development team level, some people are not fully on board or are simply not organized enough.

There are some inglorious tasks such as heavy documentation, verifying compliance with obscure standards and checking backward-compatibility with Netscape Navigator 4 on Windows 95, for example. If you reach a point where you notice Agile fatigue where basic practices are not followed, you can try gamification. Gamification is all about creating a work environment where you get rewarded for performing your duties by incorporating game design elements.

Whenever you squash a bug you get some experience points, the system keeps track of your not being late for meetings streak, the whole team gets a gold star when all of the sprint is completed successfully. This may sound silly if you never tried it, but movements such as the quantified self?demonstrate that people enjoy it and will adapt their behavior to accomplish little game goals that just happen to correspond to real life goals. It can add fun, as well as help keep track on actual important metrics.

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