Ineffective Decision Making in Adopting an Agile Software Development Methodology

Ineffective Decision Making in Adopting an Agile Software Development Methodology

John McAvoy (University of College Cork, Ireland) and Tom Butler (University of College Cork, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-843-7.ch053
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Agile software development (ASD) is now widely used in the software development industry; accordingly, it has been the focus of research with studies featuring in a variety of journals—notable examples are special issues of IEEE Computer (Volume 36, Issue 6) and IEEE Software (Volume 20, Issue 3). The decision by organisations and project teams to adopt an agile methodology is of particular interest to researchers, with the main aim of such studies being to produce a tool or system to assist in that decision. Examples of this research stream are to be found in research by Boehm and Turner (2003, 2004), McAvoy and Sammon (2006), and Pikkarainen and Passoja (2005). Decision making in these treats it as occurring over a short time frame, ending with a specific decision. In Mintzberg, Raisinghani, and Théorêt (1976), decision making is seen to be bounded by the identification of a need for action and ends with a commitment to take specific action. Despite Mintzberg et al.’s (1976) bounding of decision making, commitment to a particular decision can not be assumed to last. The implementation of a decision is longitudinal— that is, its lifecycle is from the commitment to action through to the completion of the action or actions. Throughout the implementation of a decision, many more related decisions are made: for example, decisions based on such considerations as: Do we continue to adopt? Do we need to alter the original decision? Do we need to reassess the actions decided upon? The decision to adopt a software development methodology aligns more with a longitudinal view of decision making than with conceptualizations of decision making as a once off phenomenon. Robin and Finley (1998) argue that the operationalisation of a decision is more significant than the method adopted to arrive at the initial decision. Thus, it may be deduced that in investigating the adoption of an ASD, there needs be a consideration of decision making beyond that of a single meeting or decision point, and the focus broadened to include the impact of time on how decisions are made and actions taken. It is clear from the studies quoted that over the lifecycle of a decision various factors can impact on outcomes associated with decision taking. For example, the group that makes or applies the decision can have a major impact on resulting outcomes, which can be negative—McGrath (1984) for example, discusses many of the decision-related factors that group interaction can influence.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dialectic Inquiry: A method of improving decision making where a second group create a counter-plan which is then debated with the plan under discussion. The synthesis of the two plans should be an improvement on a single plan.

Software Development Methodology: A codified set of practices that are adhered to, to ensure a successful project.

Abilene Paradox: The inability to manage agreement where people take actions that no one actually wanted to do.

Groupthink: Ineffective decision making by a group caused by a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.

Agile Manifesto: The Agile Manifesto is a list of four values that the different agile methods consider to be their common core values.

Adoption Decision: The decision to adopt a methodology where the various relevant factors are considered and discussed to determine the viability of adoption.

Devil’s Advocate: The use of conflict to improve decision making. One or more individuals are assigned the role of negatively assessing a decision or viewpoint, with the aim of creating a debate and removing a rush to judgment for the sake of consensus.

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