Contradictions, tensions and balancing strategies in agile working methods2022-12-19
In her doctoral thesis, “Tensions experienced and balancing strategies used in Agile Software Development environments”, Carin Lindskog focuses on the contradictions and tensions that can arise when applying agile working methods.
- There is still a lack of knowledge even though it has been around for over twenty years.
- My thesis aims to contribute to our understanding of Agile Software Development (ASD), says Carin Lindskog, who recently completed her PhD in Information Systems at Karlstad Business School. The thesis addresses the big need for conceptual development within the field of information systems, and turns to both researchers and practitioners.
What does Agile Software Development (ASD) mean?
- In order to understand what Agile Software Development is, you need to know what the standard way of working was before the agile method made an entrance – that is, traditional software development, where you would do things in steps according to a plan. Customers would have certain requirements, which was followed by analysis, design, programming, implementation, tests and, finally, a launch. This way of working is time-consuming and it also creates gaps, similar to the popular children’s game Chinese whispers – the end result will differ from the original idea. With the uncertainty that exists regarding requirements, there is a need for a more flexible way of developing software with frequent small deliveries. This approach means that there is always an opportunity to get feedback, make changes and have continuous customer collaboration.
In her thesis, Carin Lindskog applies different theories as theoretical lenses in order to understand, explain and describe contradictions that might create tensions and how these tensions can be balanced.
- I have tried to describe, in concrete terms, issues that may arise when software development teams work together and how this is experienced, says Carin Lindskog. There are various requirements that need to be met, regardless if the road to get there is difficult and energy-consuming. In my thesis, I wanted to put the requirements into words and show models that can be used to discuss them.
Something that surprised Carin Lindskog was that the knowledge of agile working methods is still unclear and vague.
- Despite that the agile approach was introduced already back in 2001, there is still no exact definition of what it entails. There is a big difference between embracing the agile culture and just applying the tools that go with it. To be successful, you need to understand the very core of the agile method, have an agile mindset and understand the four values of the Agile Manifesto. In my thesis, I show that discussing contradictions and tensions in a team can also lead to people sharing ideas and creating a common understanding of the agile culture. It may sound like a simple task, but to initiate these types of discussions requires courage and a sense of psychological safety.
Carin Lindskog’s research can be applied in many different ways, in teams of teachers, students, and researchers.
- What does structure, security and control mean to my students, for example? What contributes to changeability and creativity for them? There is a need for balance and to describe how tensions between structure and changeability provide an explanation as you move ahead. My research tries to explain and understand. A trend that I have noticed when it comes to working together as a group is that you should share similar values – we know that when projects fail, it comes down to people and collaborations and conflicts. We are talking about people here – you do not develop something on your own, you do it together as a team. The point of discussing how we can create a culture and a way of working might appear a bit fuzzy and difficult to grasp, but if we can cooperate, we can also more easily adopt techniques and tools.
What are you doing next?
- I’m looking forward to more teaching and contact with student, as well as the coming year together with my new colleagues in our Project Management Team. We have just submitted a research application, and I find that being part of a research group provides a better balance between research and teaching.
The four agile values
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
- Working software over comprehensive documentation