Lean Sigma Global Olympics – A Gamification Approach to Lean Sigma Deployment

Thomas Jay Van Eimeren, LSBB, Lean Sigma Continuous Improvement Leader, Arrow Electronics, Mesa, AZ, USA

Keywords: Gamification, Lean Sigma, Organizational Effectiveness

Industry: All

Level: Intermediate


Gamification is “the use of game design elements, in non-game contexts”. Gamification is not about people playing games at their workplace, but about using game mechanics, to achieve organizational effectiveness. Research shows that the use of gamification instills a sense of meaning, provides a feeling of mastery, promotes autonomy, and creates super-engagement. According to Brian Burke at Gartner, “When designed correctly, gamification has proven to be very successful in engaging people and motivating them to change behaviors, develop skills or solve problems” In addition, gamification can also be used to influence an organization's culture, communication, and performance management. One of the primary reasons that the human race has always loved playing games is the possibility to improve. The feeling of developing a certain skill is one of the most important aspects of fulfillment and well-being at the workplace. Gamification allows us to learn new things and see how they are becoming easier and easier as time goes by. Before we know it, what used to be extremely challenging is now done easily, with almost no effort at all. This is what researchers at the University of Chicago have called "flow", and it turns out to be an important factor in employee well-being. When applied to Lean Sigma, the use of gamification for learning and talent development affords an organization, the ability to harness what employees see, creating a bottom up approach to Continuous Process Improvement. These newly developed change agents now utilize their skills to carry the momentum forward and achieve even greater benefits for the organization, accelerating the organization’s Lean sigma deployment initiatives.

In 2015, Arrow Electronics Inc. conducted extensive research on how to better engage global counterparts. The research pointed them to innovate and create a gamification approach that would resonate with all of their employees around the globe: Arrows’ Lean Sigma Global Olympics. Arrow Electronics included teams from the Americas, Europe and Asia to compete in continuous-improvement events aimed at integrating Lean Sigma process-improvement concepts into their daily work. Lean Sigma methodologies are applied through an engaging gamification format that draws on popular Olympic-sport-themed events. Senior Arrow logistics leaders oversee regional teams, allocate resources and provide feedback. Over the three-month competition, regional teams gather data, implement change, measure results and report out. Employees have fun, and cultivate global relationships while sharing best practices on productivity and an improved customer experience. Encouraging cross-regional, global teams to work together leverages enhanced collaboration and teamwork. Through reflection we have continued to learn and improve the team selection recommendations, tools and templates. With 4 Olympics Competitions completed over a two year span the momentum and employee engagement continues to grow. For example, the most recent Olympics event included 11 Teams, a record number of participants from 6 different countries, it was our most successful to date.

Over 225 Arrow employees have participated in Lean Sigma gamification via the Global Olympics in the past 18 months. These employees generated over $1 million in cost savings by leveraging their new skills. They reduced the number of steps taken in logistics-fulfillment processes by 24,000 miles, or the equivalent of an entire trip around the Earth. The Olympics has also generated over $4 million in revenue potential through new, innovative value creation services. These employees will continue to carry the momentum forward fostering continuous process improvements throughout Arrow’s growing logistics business. Arrow has had great success utilizing gamification for their Lean Sigma Deployment. Companies that leverage a completely self-funded gamification approach like the Olympics can accelerate their Lean Sigma Deployment by creating super-engaged change agents that have mastered the skills necessary to execute continuous improvement events. Autonomously as they carry this momentum forward, they share best practices with their global counterparts and create a culture of continuous improvement and organizational effectiveness contributing to increased profitable growth and employee engagement through a bottom up execution of lean sigma.