Extra ideas for gamifying your Home Scrum system
There are many ways of expanding on the basic Scrum framework, and in this post I have put together a bunch of suggestions for extra things Francis and I have used that have helped us to get more out of our Home Scrum. However, I want to emphasise that there is no need to think about adding any extras, especially at the beginning, if you don’t want to. It can be much better to start simple, and to not give your brain an excuse of wanting to ‘optimise’ your system to be the ‘best’ it can be in lieu of actually starting to use it. Also, it is usually better to come up with your own ideas for how to change and add to your Home Scrum system. That way you and your Scrum team have more ownership over and engagement with the way you’re working together. Having said all that, if any of these ideas for adaptations and gamifications have an appeal, go ahead and take them.
The main way we ‘score’ our games is by playing around with how many story points we get given for certain tasks. As I said in this post, story points are not a mandatory part of doing Scrum, but for us a lot of these games (and so a lot of the more fun parts of doing Scrum) wouldn’t work without them.
Points bonuses and combos
The simplest form of gamification is allowing yourself to get bonus points for certain things. For instance, one of our earliest examples of this was the ‘laundry hat-trick.’ This meant that if we put on, hang up, and put away a load of laundry in one day, we got a bonus three points.
There are lots of tasks which make sense to group together like this, so take a look at your board and see if you can establish some special ‘combos.’
Similarly to bonus points, you can come up with scenarios where you could earn double or triple points for certain tasks or combos of tasks.
For instance, perhaps if you do every task you planned for the day, you could earn double for the last task (or for the whole day’s total). Or you could nominate one task per day as the most important task, and award double points for it if it gets done. Or for a task that you have been putting off (but you’ll only get the double points if it gets done today…). There are so many ways you could apply it!
I’m sure you’ve already come across the concept of a streak: tracking how many days (or weeks, or months) you can do something for. Streaks are a powerful way of harnessing extra motivation for staying consistent and on-task. The idea is that the larger the streak, the more you don’t want to break the streak and so the more likely you are to do the thing again. (Not to mention that by doing whatever-it-is daily, it becomes easier to face doing simply through repeated exposure, practice, and hopefully making it into a habit.)
However, there is a very big caveat to streaks: they come with a severe psychological backlash if (or, really, when) they are broken. It can be quite devastating, and you feel much less inclined to return to doing the thing than you were to start with. It can feel like ‘what’s the point? I’ll never get back to where I was!’
Still, we have had success with them, and they are easy to integrate onto your board: it can be as simple as keeping tally marks on a post-it note.
Here are the ways that we have modified the way our streaks work to mitigate the likelihood of having it all crash around our ears:
• missing one day does not break the streak. Missing two days in a row does.
• streaks don’t count while you’re away from home, for instance if you’re on holiday. You can also deliberately pause the streak while you push forward on something else (e.g. a week off exercise to redecorate a room in your house).
• don’t have too many streaks! Probably a maximum of three, and just one is better. Consider carefully what would most benefit from the streak treatment (for me, I have often found that to be getting to bed on time, as everything else gets easier with enough sleep).
• accept that no matter how long you succeed at using your streak, it is still a temporary measure which will come with a psychological cost during and afterwards. (During, because it is stressful to know that you might break your streak, and after, because you inevitably feel disappointed at the loss/failure.) In fact, it might be working against you in terms of finding a way to do something because it is intrinsically motivating. (You are getting motivated by the number of your streak, rather than the activity itself. Still, at least you’re doing the activity in the first place!) As I’ve said before about habit-forming, I’ve never found daily tasks like this to effortlessly embed themselves into my life in a way that they become truly automatic, easy and genuinely habitual. I can go for several weeks or even months with a well-established routine, and then stumble and completely stop doing it. That’s okay. We are always going to need to tweak and reinvent ways to get ourselves started again, and hopefully Home Scrum gives you the opportunities to redesign your approach as many times as needed.
Quitting smoking with a streak
A great example of where a streak excelled while we have been using Scrum is the way we used one to help Francis quit smoking. After only using Home Scrum for a few months, Francis decided he wanted to quit smoking now that he had a mechanism that would support him through it. To do it we went all out, using a combination of a streak and a type of points-multiplier. For each day he succeeded in not smoking, we would multiply the entire points score for the day by an increasing amount: the first day by 1.1, then 1.2, and so on, until at the tenth day of his streak we stabilised at him earning a 2x multiplier on the total points for the day for every continued day of no smoking. We kept this as part of our system for months, until Francis felt confident that he could continue to not smoke without the extra motivation to do so. In a way, it was ludicrous to earn double the points every day for not doing something, but on the other hand, it was the single most important thing that Francis could possibly be achieving, so it made total sense to put this much weight on it. And it worked! At the time of writing, Francis is about to pass five years without smoking a single cigarette.
Adding silly, fun extras
The best part about doing Scrum at home, rather than in an office, is that you can be as silly as you want. We have added all sorts of nonsensical parts to our Daily Scrum ritual over the years, complete with bonus points. For instance, we have a ‘magic wand’ (an actual wooden wand, yes) and if we used that to point at each task as we counted up the total, that was worth an extra two points. If we gave each other a high five we got a point. If we hugged for seven seconds that was an extra point. You could have a stuffed toy as a mascot to oversee proceedings, you could give your pets points for doing their tasks, you can add anything to your Home Scrum system that seems helpful to you, and there isn’t anything more helpful than making sure that the system stays fresh and fun in small, silly ways.