Key lessons from quality management still to be adopted in gamified systems
Underneath the nice printed cards and well designed websites for gamified learning or performance management is a scary missing element that becomes more and more. Quality, it is there at the start but then like a stop and start poorly tuned engine the gamification framework stalls and stutters. Sometimes it needs a big unified push to get it going again and other times new parts or a shock to the system.
So, for my peers in the world of gamification and fellow gamified junkies I feel it’s my duty here to share some lesson I have learned from over 30 years within quality management systems, process and philosophy development. Here are some clear take away pointers that can be easily adopted by my competition and various project managers around the world. So, strap in, sit tight and let’s go.
The 4 letters you need to care about are PDCA.
Taking directly from the starting principles of quality control and performance management is the Plan-Do-Check-Act. Now even as a gamification junky myself, I did not spin or adopt the core model to include fancy rewards to a narrative. Let us be reminded, ANYTHING to do with the user experience and attaining the aims of your gamification project design should be subject to these 4 steps.
I see lot’s of sporadic planning, inconsistent doing, checking after issues and acting only when needed. The point with PDCA is to set time and clear processes that embrace these steps as normal workflow steps. This helps boost and enhance quality performance, system robustness and higher impact from your project for all stakeholders, (not least your own reputation!).
Kaizen is not a player character, it’s what you do
Most famously known across the world, Toyota has been an early adopter of Kaizen principles. This total quality management philosophy concentrates on flow and process improvements. There is a direct reference between Kaizen principles and the lean movement to reduce waste and enhance performance.
Some of the guiding principles will already be familiar to gamified designers, such as the need to make process steps easier to execute and encourage risk and trial within critical thinking approaches to learning and improvement. The key here is Kaizen, is this should be done daily and kept front and centre as a working approach.
One bad apple can spoil the barrel
It only takes for one simple overlooked function, feedback loop or design error for the rest of the program and framework to be perceived as not fit for purpose. Consistent quality control checks, wide and extensive user testing is required before client role out. The exception to this rule can be made in early developers of a gamified system with little experience. For those situations just ensure the framework roll out is communicated realistically so expectations are not set too high and real time error feedback becomes part of a rewarding engagement function.
Your system is only as good as it’s weakest link - beware.
When you measure is as important as what you measure
What’s measured improves - Peter Ducker - Quality Guru
What Ducker missed in the above quote is to define what the frequency of the measures are. With life and death consequences, NASA sent the space shuttle that exploded and killed many astronauts due to a part seal quality problem. The part was measured, the frequency of the part being measured in certain environmental circumstances and parameters generated it’s failure and the death to people and the shuttle space projects.
Your measures with interaction points at user level are normally good, indeed most of today’s robust gamification frameworks do a good job there, what appears missing is the validation and improvement of timing for measures. Using improved modern statistics it offers scope and opportunities to provide gamification design adjustments as data points confirm progress.
Taking over from here
You need to take over from here, do your own quality management education and review your own performances. The purpose of this short article has been to wake up the gamification industry a little more. We have come a long way in improving design, client needs, user experience, learning methods and behavior science. Yet, at the core is the continued responsibility and need to ensure what is done, get’s improved in planned and managed methods to become a core part of the way we approach our important work.
As a small footnote, my over 30 years of quality management and metrics experience offers many unique insights for gamification and performance management. If you have any questions or even disagree with the points I have raised, I look forward to your contact so we can take on the debate and improve together.