Competivation – Motivation through competition

I assume you are familiar with the old truth that competition spurs motivation and fear; two tremendously powerful mental states. Let me introduce my new concept that leverages both: Competivation.

It comes in two flavors, external competivation and internal competivation. They complement each other and will boost efficiency, and keep everyone on their toes at all times.

External Competivation

What better unites a group of people than a common enemy? Nothing! Competivation builds upon that.

Step 1: Introduce team uniforms. Have the team’s (often corny) name printed on a colorful t-shirt and hand them out. This investment will soon pay itself back. If you want to you can have casual Friday mean “Team uniform is optional” Friday. Make sure to give the senior and the most important team’s cool colors and mean fonts.

Step 2: Announce Quarterly Team Championships. Announce that there from now on will be monthly championships running. Put up big dashboards in the cafeteria and by the reception. The more dashboards, the higher the impact. Have the dashboards show scores for each team, which is in the lead and which teams are at the bottom. Having the teams compete against each other should result in a productivity boost. If you don’t notice immediate change, announce that the winning team will be “safe” from this quarter’s staff reduction overview and have “Survival” sporadically run on the tvs. That should do it.

Here are some other metrics to base the championship scoring on:

  • Bugs reported on other teams – Severity don’t matter. 1 point for every bug report.
  • Worked hours – Weekend hours are counted twice.
  • Email blowout – The more CC’s a week, the better the score. Top score for Blowouts – when a person’s email box finally reaches its limit.
  • Execution accuracy – Only lame teams allow work to run longer than estimated. Cut the crap short and hand over problem to another team. The team closest to 1.0 is the winner.
  • Flow interruptions – Every time a person feels interrupted by some other team, he/she logs it. That team gets a penalty point. The winner is the team with the fewest penalty points.
  • Cost savings – Every team logs cost reductions. For example: fewer licenses, fewer servers, less post-its used, colder coffee, smaller whiteboards, less expensive chairs, and so on. Encourage creativity! The team that managed to cut most cost is the winner.

Internal Competivation

Turning people against each other in a competitive environment really triggers motivation and creativity. If you need proof for this, as well as inspiration, I recommend viewing “The Hunger Games”.

But don’t forget the fear-factor. Even when you sublimely introduce competition between the members of a team make sure that you often remind them that you expect them to work as a team, to take responsibility as a team and to feel “empowered”. Keep them confused and afraid of failure!

Here are some examples of Internal Competivation:

  • Award the person who wrote the highest number of post-its during a retrospective brainstorming. What’s written on the post-its are irrelevant.  A simple reward, such as an ice-cream with you, their Scrum Master, should be enough to make it clear that you value productivity – not deep thoughts.
  • Spontaneously give away free movie tickets at the end of the daily stand-ups to the person who moved the most tasks to a new column.
  • Secretly write down the number of times each person leaves their desk to do something else than coding. By the end of every day simply proclaim the winner without explanation. When they have figured it out, the lesson is learned and it’s time to switch to another competition.
  • Cleanest code – Install a spyware that counts the number of compilation errors and warnings.
  • If the daily stand-up exceeds 15 minutes – blow a whistle and punish the person currently talking.
  • Scared and confused looks during a week. Don’t explain the scoring just award that person with a personal toilet – Just for the fun of it 🙂

Make sure to do the above irregularly. You don’t want the team to figure out in advance what’s going on. You want them on edge; you need them on their toes doing their best in order for you to look good. The final blow that raises you to all controlling God status is when you step in as and say: “why don’t we just cooperate!”.

5 responses on “Competivation – Motivation through competition

  1. Thanks Evil coach! I knew we had many ways to evolve as a company.

    I was struggling to come up with more cost savings for our Excellence 2000 plan, now I know: make it a competition!


  2. Now THIS is advice I can get behind!

    I’ll present this to my ruler… er I mean Manager, first thing tomorrow.


  3. As usual, this are great advices. I’m becoming a better coach and person each time I read from you.

    Thanks so much

  4. Yes, it`s really great if you are one of Pavlov`s fans. Blow whistle? Am I a dog or something? It is not coaching it`s taming,

  5. I love them all, Evil Coach. But instead of a whistle I’m going to use my blamethrower.

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