Empirical Software Engineering

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 609–639

Developing a grounded theory to explain the practices of self-organizing Agile teams

Article

Abstract

Software Engineering researchers are constantly looking to improve the quantity and quality of their research findings through the use of an appropriate research methodology. Over the last decade, there has been a sustained increase in the number of researchers exploring the human and social aspects of Software Engineering, many of whom have used Grounded Theory. We have used Grounded Theory as a qualitative research method to study 40 Agile practitioners across 16 software organizations in New Zealand and India and explore how these Agile teams self-organize. We use our study to demonstrate the application of Grounded Theory to Software Engineering. In doing so, we present (a) a detailed description of the Grounded Theory methodology in general and its application in our research in particular; (b) discuss the major challenges we encountered while performing Grounded Theory’s various activities and our strategies for overcoming these challenges; and (c) we present a sample of our data and results to illustrate the artifacts and outcomes of Grounded Theory research.

Keywords

Empirical research Software engineering Grounded theory Agile software development Self-organizing 

References

  1. Adolph S, Hall W, Kruchten P (2008) A methodological leg to stand on: lessons learned using grounded theory to study software development. In: CASCON ’08, New York, ACM, pp 166–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allan GW (2003) A critique of using grounded theory as a research method. EJBRM 2(1):1–9Google Scholar
  3. Anderson L, Alleman GB, Beck K, Blotner J, Cunningham W, Poppendieck M, Wirfs-Brock R (2003) Agile management - an oxymoron?: who needs managers anyway? In: OOPSLA ’03, New York, 2003. ACM, pp 275–277. doi:10.1145/949344.949410
  4. APN (2010) Agile professionals network. http://www.agileprofessionals.net/. Last accessed 20 September 2010
  5. ASCI (2010) Agile software community of India. http://www.agileindia.org/. Last accessed 20 September 2010
  6. Ashby R (1956) An introduction to cybernetics. Chapman and Hall, LondonMATHGoogle Scholar
  7. Augustine S, Payne B, Sencindiver F, Woodcock S (2005) Agile project management: steering from the edges. Commun ACM 48(12):85–89, ISSN 0001-0782. doi:10.1145/1101779.1101781 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beck K (1999) Extreme programming explained: embrace change, 1st edn. Addison-Wesley ProfessionalGoogle Scholar
  9. Begel A, Nagappan N (2007) Usage and perceptions of agile software development in an industrial context: an exploratory study. In: ESEM ’07, IEEE, Washington, pp 255–264Google Scholar
  10. Carver J (2004) The impact of background and experience on software inspections. Empirical Softw Engg 9(3):259–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chau T, Maurer F (2004) Knowledge sharing in agile software teams. Lect Notes Comput Sci 3075:173–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chow T, Cao D (2008) A survey study of critical success factors in agile software projects. J Syst Softw 81(6):961–971CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cockburn A (2003) People and methodologies in software development. PhD thesis, University of Oslo, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  14. Cockburn A (2004) Crystal clear: a human-powered methodology for small teams. Addison-Wesley ProfessionalGoogle Scholar
  15. Cockburn A, Highsmith J (2001) Agile software development: the people factor. Computer 34(11):131–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coleman G, O’Connor R (2007) Using grounded theory to understand software process improvement: a study of Irish software product companies. Inf Softw Technol 49(6):654–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Crabtree CA, Seaman CB, Norcio AF (2009) Exploring language in software process elicitation: A grounded theory approach. In: ESEM ’09: proceedings of the 2009 3rd international symposium on empirical software engineering and measurement. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, USA, pp 324–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dagenais B, Ossher H, Bellamy RKE, Robillard MP, de Vries JP (2010) Moving into a new software project landscape. In: ICSE ’10: proceedings of the 32nd ACM/IEEE international conference on software engineering, ACM, pp 275–284Google Scholar
  19. Dybå T, Dingsoyr T (2008) Empirical studies of agile software development: a systematic review. Inf Softw Technol 50(9–10):833–859CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fraser S (2003) Xtreme programming and agile coaching. In: OOPSLA Comp 03, ACM, New York, pp 265–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Georgieva S, Allan G (2008) Best practices in project management through a grounded theory lens. EJBRM 6(1):43–52. http://www.ejbrm.com/issue-current.htm Google Scholar
  22. Glaser B (1978) Theoretical sensitivity: advances in the methodology of grounded theory. Sociology Press, Mill Valley, CAGoogle Scholar
  23. Glaser B (1992) Basics of grounded theory analysis: emergence vs forcing. Sociology Press, Mill Valley, CAGoogle Scholar
  24. Glaser B (1998) Doing grounded theory: issues and discussions. Sociology Press, Mill Valley, CAGoogle Scholar
  25. Glaser B (2004) Remodeling grounded theory. FQS 5(2):1–17MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  26. Glaser B (2005) The grounded theory perspective III: theoretical coding. Sociology Press, Mill Valley, CAGoogle Scholar
  27. Glaser B (2010) Grounded theory institute: methodology of Barney G Glaser, 2010. URL http://groundedtheory.org/, accessed on April 2
  28. Glaser B, Strauss AL (1967) The discovery of grounded theory. Aldine, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  29. Highsmith J (2000) Adaptive software development: a collaborative approach to managing complex systems. Dorset House Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Highsmith J (2004) Agile project management: creating innovative products. Addison-Weasley, USAGoogle Scholar
  31. Highsmith J, Fowler M (2001) The agile manifesto. Software Development Magazine 9(8):29–30Google Scholar
  32. Hoda R, Noble J, Marshall S (2009) Negotiating contracts for agile projects: a practical perspective. In: XP2009, Springer, Italy, pp 186–191Google Scholar
  33. Hoda R, Noble J, Marshall S (2010a) Balancing acts: walking the agile tightrope. In: Co-operative and human aspects of software engineering workshop at ICSE2010, ACM, South AfricaGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoda R, Noble J, Marshall S (2010b) Using grounded theory to study the human aspects of software engineering. In: Human aspects of software engineering (HAoSE ’10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 5, 2 p. doi:10.1145/1938595.1938605 Google Scholar
  35. Hoda R, Noble J, Marshall S (2010c) Organizing self-organizing teams. In: ICSE2010, ACM, South Africa, pp 285–294Google Scholar
  36. Hoda R, Kruchten P, Noble J, Marshall S (2010d) Agility in context. In: Proceedings of the ACM international conference on object oriented programming systems languages and applications (OOPSLA ’10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, pp 74–88. doi:10.1145/1869459.1869467 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hoda R, Noble J, Marshall S (2010e) Agile undercover: when customers don’t collaborate. In: XP, pp 73–87Google Scholar
  38. Hut J, Molleman E (1998) Empowerment and team development. Team Perform Manag 4(2):53–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Larman C, Basili VR (2003) Iterative and incremental development: a brief history. Computer 36(6):47–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. LaRossa R (2005) Grounded theory methods and qualitative family research. J Marriage Fam 67:837–857CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martin A, Biddle R, Noble J (2009) The XP customer role: a grounded theory. In: AGILE2009, IEEE Computer Society, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  42. Martin R (2002) Agile Software Development: principles, patterns, and practices. Pearson Education, NJGoogle Scholar
  43. Moe NB, Dingsoyr T (2008) Scrum and team effectiveness: Theory and practice. In: XP, Limerick, Springer, pp 11–20Google Scholar
  44. Moe NB, Dingsoyr T, Dybå T (2008) Understanding self-organizing teams in agile software development. In: ASWEC ’08, IEEE, Washington, pp 76–85Google Scholar
  45. Molleman E (1998) Variety and the requisite of self-organization. Int J Organ Anal 6(2):109–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Morgan G (1986) Images of organization. Sage Publications, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  47. Nerur S, Balijepally V (2007) Theoretical reflections on agile development methodologies. Commun ACM 50(3):79–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nerur S, et al (2005) Challenges of migrating to agile methodologies. Commun ACM 48(5):72–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nonaka I (1994) A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organ Sci 5(1):14–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. NVivo (2010) Research software tool. URL: http://www.qsrinternational.com/products_nvivo.aspx. Last accessed 10 April 2010
  51. Palmer SR, Felsing M (2001) A practical guide to feature-driven development. Pearson EducationGoogle Scholar
  52. Parry KW (1998) Grounded theory and social process: A new direction for leadership research. Leadersh Q 9(1):85–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pikkarainen M, Haikara J, Salo O, Abrahamsson P, Still J (2008) The impact of agile practices on communication in software development. Empirical Softw Engg 13(3):303–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schwaber K (2009) Scrum guide. Online document URL: www.itemis.de/binary.ashx/∼download/26078/scrum-guide.pdf
  55. Schwaber K, Beedle M (2002) Agile software development with SCRUM. Prentice-HallGoogle Scholar
  56. Sharp H, Robinson H (2004) An ethnographic study of XP practice. Empirical Softw Engg 9(4):353–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sharp H, Robinson H (2008) Collaboration and co-ordination in mature extreme programming teams. Int J Hum-Comput Stud 66(7):506–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stapleton J (1997) Dynamic systems development method. Addison WesleyGoogle Scholar
  59. Strauss A, Corbin J (1990) Basics of qualitative research: grounded theory procedures and techniques. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CAGoogle Scholar
  60. Suddaby R (2006) From the editors: what grounded theory is not. Acad Manage J 49(4):633–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Takeuchi H, Nonaka I (1986) The new new product development game. Hardvard Business Review 64(1):137–146Google Scholar
  62. Thomas G, James D (2006) Reinventing grounded theory: some questions about theory, ground and discovery. Br Educ Res J 32(6):767–795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Whitworth E, Biddle R (2007) The social nature of agile teams. In: Agile2007, IEEE Computer Society, USAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Engineering and Computer ScienceVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations