As my fellow instructor, Miquel Rodriguez, explained in his Kudo Cards: A Simple Thank You Goes a Long Way! post, Management 3.0 recommends using an extremely useful and simple tool called Kudos Cards.
Kudos are cards used for people to offer others a token or element of appreciation: a thank you!
In this post, I want to share my experience of using Kudos cards in a company where I worked.
After experimenting with Kudo Cards in a Management 3.0 course, my team and I decided to implement the practice in our department. It seemed easy enough to implement and anything that can deliver a positive response will contribute to a rewarding and collaborative environment.
We decided to start by testing its use in the IT department of our Barcelona office. Its use was explained to all IT teams and cards were placed in several locations around the office. We also constructed a Kudo box for the cards to be deposited.
We also decided to hold a meeting 2 weeks after implementation to read the cards aloud. Every other Friday we would have “Kudos and Snacks” (or depending on our work environment “Kudos and Cocktails”).
When the first “Kudos and Snacks” arrived, we all met in the kitchen. The Kudo Box was opened – participation had been high, and the Kudos were really well written! People were just as happy to say thank you as much as they were to receive kudos from their colleagues. The leaders were really satisfied, we had managed to convey the message and the experience had been a success.
Or… Maybe Not as Successful as We Thought
After we finished, I went back to my desk and a co-worker approached us and said:
“This Kudos stuff is nonsense! I help the team a lot and I didn’t received any Kudos. “
This might not be surprising at first to have a “Negative Nancy” but this complaint was coming from someone that did not fit the profile of a complainer – he had been open and accepting to change in the past. My first thought was – “oh well, you can’t please everyone”, and we were talking about 1 person in a group of 30. Ignoring this would not have a major impact, right?
I ended up pushing this instinct aside and did a little research. It turned out that, despite sharing a room, this person did not work on the final product. He worked on the tools that were used to create the final product.
The following Monday we discussed what happened with the Scrum Master team and decided to dedicate more energy to observing what happened with this person and how he interacted with the other members of the team, their dynamics, interactions, collaborations, etc. We discovered that this person was not involved in the day-to-day work of the team in an active way, due to the nature of his work. He knew what the team needed because he listened, but didn’t talk about what he was doing, and most importantly, what impediments he was continuously solving for them.
To overcome this, we worked on bidirectional communication between this person and the team. The team began see exactly what he was doing and that he was the one who had (magically) fixed all the problems that arose on the server.
At the next “Kudos and Snacks” celebration, this person received several Kudos showing gratitude, and even some fun Kudos about the team members discovering he was the goblin that fixed the problems while the others “slept”.
Through this experience, we learn some things:
- Although it was easy and simple, and its use was well communicated, the success of implementing the tool was not assured in a complex environment.
- Any feedback is welcome. And because we chose not to ignore the person who gave us negative feedback, but we discovered a hidden problem.
- Just because a group of people shares a room does not mean that information flows smoothly for everyone.
- Test tools in a controlled group first before implementing them to the entire company.
- Not always (and almost never) does everything go perfectly at first. The important thing is to learn and iterate.
We continued to hold the bi-weekly Kudos ceremony and due to its success, we extended the invitation to the entire Barcelona office. Again, this wasn’t a perfect process – we found new obstacles.
Beware of Trolls
During one of the “Kudos and Snacks” with the entire office, the person reading the cards removed one that was not an “official” card. Not only was it not official, it was a card with with negative remarks, wishing a co-worker a bad future. Fortunately, the person reading the cards realized this and was able to discard of it quickly. We discovered that there may be people who do not like their colleagues having fun or maybe, they are opposed change.
This is not new; Everett Rogers explains this in his theory of “diffusion of innovations”. This model can also be applied to the implementation of new ideas within the culture of an organization.
Rogers proposes that four main elements influence the dissemination of a new idea:
- The Innovation Itself
- Communication Channels
- Social System
The process of spreading a new idea is based largely on human capital. Innovation must be widely adopted to sustain itself and within the adoption rate, there is a point at which an innovation reaches a critical mass.
The categories of adopters are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.
We learned that there were laggards in our organization, despite having innovative DNA. There are people who find it hard to adopt innovations and will continue to deny it. We must be aware that any innovation, however positive it may be, will not please everyone.
My company at the time worked with international projects and almost always had teams scattered across Europe. It was not always possible for everyone to attend “Kudos and Snacks”. Since most people enjoyed the event, those who couldn’t attend were disappointed.
A couple of people suggested modifying the process so that those who traveled more wouldn’t be left out. The solution was to create a Kudos wall.
The operation was similar – when someone wanted to thank a co-worker, they wrote a Kudo Card. However, instead of inserting it in the box, it was hung on a board in the common place.
Unfortunately, this was a step backwards for us (regarding use of the tool). Our participation rate plummeted. Having to look on a board to see if there was a card for oneself was perceived as a waste of time.
Although the atmosphere in the office was not affected, people wanted to continue meeting to read the Kudos aloud. So, we tried a hybrid model – hold “Kudos and Snacks” in front of the wall by taking cards down and read them out loud. The feedback we got still wasn’t positive; our teams liked the surprise factor of the box. Finally, we went back to the Kudos box.
Iterate, learn and, if necessary, go back to a previous point.
Small Rewards with Kudos
As the hype around “Snacks and Kudos” settled down, we decided to add a small reward that would be given to one of the recipients of a Kudo during the ceremony.
At our next “Kudos and Snacks”, we added in a $50 gift card. Without previously announcing it to anyone, when the last card was drawn from the Kudos box, we announced that the first Kudo extracted was awarded the gift card.
This added practice was repeated “randomly”. We didn’t have a prize at every ceremony and at some ceremonies, we had two.
The inclusion of the gift cards contributed to the festive atmosphere. Note: I recommend choosing a reward with enough value to make the recipient happy but not so much that it does not become the primary motivator for participating.