Organizational Values and Agile Methods Deployment

This article outlines an ongoing empirical study on the relationship between organizational values and the deployment of agile methods. Organizational values are interpreted as preferred organizational qualities and standards which guide organizational decisions and behavior. They have been shown to have significant impact on different aspect of organizational life, including organizational commitment, performance, integrity and many more. Agile methods deployment is referred as the process that occurs when agile methods are taken into use. Many determinants of agile methods acceptance and usage have been proposed and empirically evaluated. Nevertheless, organizational values have never been thoroughly examined in this regard. This study aims to fill this gap and claims that certain attributes of organizational values correlate with the successful deployment of agile methods.

I. Introduction
With the increasing industrial interest in agile software development, the deployment of agile methods has become an important research topic [1]. Although, the body of knowledge on agile deployment has significantly evolved in the recent years, organizational values, which are well established subject in organizational studies [2], have been seriously neglected. Motivated by the existing empirical base on the importance of organizational values in organizational life [2], we have initiated a study to thoroughly examine if and how organizational values could be related to agile deployment. The main research question of our study is:

RQ: Do organizational values, when applied to software development teams, have any relationship with the deployment of agile methods?

The main contributions expected from our study might be summarized as: (1) enlarge our empirical understanding of determinants of agile deployment by introducing constructs from organizational values studies; (2) adaptation of these constructs to agile deployment; (3) development and evaluation of measurement scales for these adapted constructs; and (4) empirical validation of prior determinants of agile method usage and acceptance.
The paper is organized as follows: Section 2 outlines the current knowledge in regards to organizational values and agile deployment, emphasizing on empirical studies; and Section 3 briefly introduces our research model, variables and hypotheses, together with how data will be collected and analyzed.

II. Prior Research

A. Organizational values
There are many definitions of organizational values, currently existing in the literature. Most of them are derived from various definitions of human values [3] and adapted to fit organizational domain. These definitions could be briefly summarized as: (1) highly esteemed abstract constructs, which are shaping organization’s philosophy, principles and goals; (2) qualities and standards, which guide and judge organizational decisions and behavior; (3) beliefs and assumptions which constitute a collective understanding of what the organization stands for, takes pride in and holds of intrinsic worth; (4) abstract goals and ideals, which describe desired actions and situations; etc. More recently, with the increasing incorporation of organizational values into the practice, the concept is also associated with other terms as management instrumentation, strategic leadership tool, social control and ethics tool, sense-making device, etc. and even a new management paradigm has been proposed, known as management by values. Because of the extensive and often inconsistent usage of terminology [2], it is important to clarify the definition of organizational values. In our study we define organizational values as “…constructs that refer to the way in which people evaluate activities or outcomes”, and which drive and “regulate both means and ends” of the organization [2].
Organizational values are closely related to organizational culture. Some authors consider organizational values to be an essential component of organizational culture. Others define organizational culture only in terms of shared organizational values and use these two constructs interchangeably. However, it is important to note, that a distinction is made between them in the literature. The most significant difference is that organizational culture is an aggregate construct, which includes additional concepts as basic assumptions, artifacts (e.g. symbols, rituals, heroes, etc.), etc. [4]. As the focus of our research is onorganizational values, organizational culture has been studied only in the context of shared organizational values.
The importance of organizational values is often considered in regard to their numerous benefits. Many authors have empirically evaluated the relationship between organizational values and (1) employee productivity, satisfaction, commitment, motivation, well-being, etc.; (2) organizational integrity and ethical behavior; (3) organizational identity and reputation; (4) organizational performance (incl. efficiency, productivity, profitability, etc.); and many more [2]. These relationships have been investigated using different attributes of organizational values and their associated instrumentation, including the concrete set of espoused (core) organizational values, the extent to which these values are shared among organizational members and aligned with their personal values (known as value congruence [5] and person-organization fit [6]), the extent to which they are being reinforced in the day-today life of the organization (known as values enactment [7]), etc.

B. Agile Deployment
For agile deployment we have used the definition of Pikkarainen et al. [8], which define it as the process that occurs into the organization when new agile development methods are taken into use in product development. Nevertheless, we have slightly changed this definition >to fit the deployment of agile methods within a particular software development team, rather than the organization as a whole. Then the adapted definition of agile deployment, used in our study, is the process that occurs into the software development team when new agile development methods are taken into use. The deployment of development methods has been studied using different theories and models, including reasoned action, planned behavior, innovation diffusion, technology acceptance, etc. [9]. Many of these studies focus on method acceptance and usage in terms of behavior intention to use, actual use and future use intention and have further suggested and validated numerous instruments for their measurement. Researchers have also empirically evaluated different determinants of method usage, including method attributes as perceived usefulness (or relative advantage), compatibility, etc. and organizational attributes as organizational support, champions and influential peers, social norm , voluntariness, team and organizational size, etc. Although these findings are applicable for the deployment of any development method, only few recent studies have empirically investigated the particular case of agile deployment. Vijayasarathy and Turk [9] have identified several important factors which drive the use of agile methods using an online survey. Among these factors, subjective norm and trainings seems to play a significant role in influencing agile methods usage, while perceived benefits and perceived limitations play a secondary role. Overhage et al. [10], based on qualitative in-depth interviews with six experienced Scrum experts of a German DAX-30 company, have suggested a list of drivers and inhibitors and traced their relationship with Riemenschneider et al. [11] determinants of method usage. Senapathi et al. [12], using a case study methodology, have investigated factors which affect agile usage and usage effectiveness.

C. Organizational Values and Agile Deployment
To the extent of our knowledge, organizational values, as a separate construct, have not been thoroughly studied in the context of neither general development method deployment nor agile deployment. An empirical study, which we found to be strongly relevant to our study, was the work of Cram [13], who has investigated the alignment between the organizational values embedded in a systems development approach and the organizational values of a project team and its effect on team performance. During his study, he has observed a positive correlation between team’s perceptions of the systems development process and the degree of alignment between these values. Another relevant empirical study is the work of Karlsson and Ågerfalk [14], where the authors argue the importance of managing method tailoring through preserving and even emphasizing specific goals and values (in their case the agile ones). We could assume that organizational values, as a core cognitive element of organizational culture, have been indirectly studied in the context of the extensive study of organizational culture. The latter has been identified as a significant method usage determinant in both general method deployment [15] and agile deployment [16].

III. Research Design

A. Research Model
When investigating the relationship between organizational values and agile deployment we focus on software development teams and their perceptions on different attributes of organizational values and the deployed agile method. By software development teams we understand two actor groups, which are equally important to our study: (1) the technical group, which includes the technical personnel of the software development team as system analysts, architects, developers, quality assurance specialists, technical leads, integrators, etc; and (2) the managerial group, which includes the direct managers of the technical group as development managers, project managers, etc. The most important reasons to focus on software development teams rather than the organization as a whole are: (1) organizational values (similar to organizational culture) could differ significantly in different departments of large organizations as these organizations tend to develop a number of subcultures, each with its own organizational values [15]; and (2) software development teams are the ones who are expected to be most affected by the introduction of the development method and are the ones who at a greater extent determine method acceptance and usage. As for the use of perceived rather than primary attributes, a good set of arguments could be found in [17]. In our research model, we approach the relationship between organizational values and agile deployment in two stages. In the first stage we examine the relationship between perceived attributes of organizational values and empirically evaluated determinants of method use. In the second stage we examine the relationship between these determinants of method use and agile deployment. In this sense, our study assumes that organizational values have indirect impact on agile deployment by influencing different determinants of method use.

B. Variables and Hypotheses
Perceived organizational values are these organizational values, which the respondent perceives as being emphasized by the software development team. On the other hand, desired organizational values are these organizational values, which the respondent thinks are actually important and should be emphasized in the future. The operational variables in regard to perceived and desired organizational values, used in our research (Tab. I), are selected and adapted from various existing organizational studies, which have empirically evaluated their significance in different aspects of organizational life [5, 6, 7]. The need for adaptation of these variables comes from the specifics of our study, which examines particular software development teams, rather than the organization as a whole.

Table I. Variables and Organizational values
Variable Description
Vertical Congruence The extent organizational values, as perceived by technical group, and organizational values, as perceived by managerial group, are consistent (adapted from value congruence [5]).
Horizontal Congruence The extent perceived organizational values are consistent within each actor group (adapted from value congruence [5]).
Personal Congruence The extent perceived organizational values concur with desired organizational values by individual team members (adapted from person-organization fit [6])./td>
Values Enactment The extent organizational values are continuously reinforced in the day-today activities and workplace behaviors of the software development team (adapted from values enactment [7]).
Values Fitness The extent the values, embedded in the deployed method, are consistent with perceived organizational values (adapted from Cram [13]).

The operational variables in regard to the deployed agile methods are taken from Reimenschneider [11]. In their study they have empirically evaluated the significance of four determinants of methods use, all taken from five different theoretical models, namely usefulness, voluntariness, compatibility and subjective norm. The significance of these variables in the particular case of agile methods use has been empirically confirmed as well [9, 10, 12]. A brief description of these variables is shown in Table II.

Table II. Variables for Deployed Agile methods
Variable Description
Usefulness The degree software development team believes that the deployed agile method would enhance their performance [11].
Voluntariness The extent the software development team perceives the deployment decision to be no mandated [11].
Compatibility The degree deployed agile method is perceived by software development team as being consistent with the existing values and needs [11].
Subjective Norm The degree software development team thinks that others, who are important to them, think they should use the deployed agile method [11].

Agile method deployment is approached through two operational variables, commonly used in the research literature [11]. These are current usage and future use intention. They are briefly described in Table III.

Table II. Operational variables for Agile deployment
Variable Description
Current Usage The extent the agile method is being used and strictly followed by the software development team [11].
Future Use Intention The extent software development team is willing to further use / increase its usage on the agile method [11].

The null hypothesis is that there is no relationship between organizational values and the agile deployment. Using the presented variables we propose a number of alternative hypotheses, claiming that such relationship exist.

H1-2: Values fitness positively correlates with perceived usefulness (H1) and compatibility (H2);

If there is higher fitness between perceived organizational values and the values embedded in the deployed agile method, we might expect that the deployed agile method would support the fulfillment of these values and thus would positively affect perceived usefulness and compatibility. Hypothesis H1 is further motivated by the empirical findings of Cram [13], while H2 is evident from the definition of compatibility.

H3-4: Vertical congruence positively correlates with perceived subjective norm (H3) and compatibility (H4);
H5-6: Horizontal congruence positively correlates with perceived subjective norm (H5) and compatibility (H6);

If perceived organizational values are consistent between the two actor groups or within each actor group, we might expect that the overall support and the agreement on the usage of deployed method would be higher, which could positively affect perceived subjective norm and compatibility. Hypotheses H3 and H5 are further motivated by the empirical findings that shared organizational values enhance perceived organizational support and organizational socialization and contagion, while H4 and H5 are again evident from the definition of compatibility.

H7: Personal congruence positively correlates with perceived voluntariness;

If perceived and desired organizational values are concurring, we might expect some of the positive effects of person-organization fit to occur, including organizational commitment, motivation, satisfaction, etc. They could positively affect perceived voluntariness.

H8-11: Values enactment positively correlates with perceived usefulness (H8), subjective norm (H9), compatibility (H10) and negatively correlates with perceived voluntariness (H11);

If values enactment is higher, we might expect that the direct connection between the fulfillment of organization values and the deployed agile methods is traceable and thus might positively affect perceived usefulness and compatibility (H8 and H10). Higher values enactment could also enhance the overall support and the agreement on the usage of deployed method, which might positively affect perceived subjective norm (H9). On the other hand, higher values enactment requires team evaluation to be dependent on the fulfillment of organizational values, which could put additional pressure on the team to strictly follow the deployed method. This might have negative impact on perceived voluntariness (H11);

H12-20: Usefulness, voluntariness, compatibility and subjective norm positively correlates with current usage and future use intention [11].

C. Data collection and Analysis
Data collection and analysis for this study is still to be performed, although some initial preparations and planning are already done. Data collection will be performed using industrial questionnaire-based survey, which will allow us (1) to collect information from heterogeneous sources and thus achieve a higher degree of external validity [17]; and (2) to evaluate the large number of variables we would like to investigate in our study [17]. Surveys as a research strategy in software engineering has been thoroughly investigated by Ciolkowski et al. [17]. They have also emphasized the lack of questionnaire-based surveys and the little experiencebased information regarding the details of surveys in a software engineering context. To fill this gap they have proposed a process for preparing, conducting, and analyzing software engineering questionnaire-based surveys. In our survey we are following their process, taking into account also the guidelines and best practices proposed by Kitchenham and Pfleeger in their series on survey research in software engineering [18]. The process proposed by Ciolkowski et al. [17] consists of six steps: (1) definition, where the goals of the survey is defined; (2) design, where survey’s goals are translated into a set of questions; (3) implementation, where all the material and tools that are required to conduct the survey are prepared; (4) execution, where data is being collected and processed; (5) analysis, where data is being interpreted; and (6) packaging, where survey’s results are being reported to external parties. Currently, we are in the design phase, addressing issues as the definition of the target population and the sample size, the design of questionnaires, the selection of approaches for data analysis and the identification of validity issues. We have already completed the survey definition phase. We have also built the conceptual model of the survey, partially introduced in the previous subsection (Section III-B). In regard to the measurement of these conceptual constructs, various, successfully evaluated measurements scales have been already identified for perceived usefulness, voluntariness, compatibility, subjective norm, current usage and future use intention [11]. For the constructs, related to organizational values, new measurement scales will be developed and evaluated for reliability and validity. This is required because these constructs differ from the existing constructs in organizational studies (incl. value congruence, person-organization fit and values enactment), although they have been adapted from them. The data collection approach was also selected. We will use structured interviews with close-ended questions, rather than self-administered questionnaire, in order to reduce the effect of response rates, biased samples, incomplete questionnaires and the like (and thus increasing internal and experimental validity) [17, 18]. This survey is explanatory in its nature, as it aims at hypothesizing, testing and explaining the relationship between organizational values and agile deployment. As recommended for explanatory surveys [17], the data analysis should be approached through statistical tests.

IV. References

  1. P. Abrahamsson, K. Conboy and X. Wang, “‘Lots done, more to do’: the current state of agile systems development research,” Eur. J. Info. Sys., vol. 18, pp. 281—284, 2009.
  2. K. Jaakson, “Management by values: are some values better than others,” J. Man. Dev. vol. 29, pp. 795—806, 2010.
  3. S. Schwartz, “Basic human values: Theory, measurement, and applications,” Revue française de soc., vol. 47, pp. 929—968, 2006.
  4. E. Schein, Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004.
  5. J. Liedtka, “Value congruence: The interplay of individual and organizational value systems,” J. Bus. Ethics, vol. 8, 1989.
  6. C. O’Reilly, J. Chatman and D. Caldwell, “People and organizational culture: A profile comparison approach to assessing personorganization fit,” Aca.of Mng. J., vol. 34, pp. 487—517, 1991.
  7. M. Gruys et al., “Values enactment in organizations: a multi-level examination,” J. of Mng., vol. 34, pp. 806—843, 2008.
  8. M. Pikkarainen et al., “Strengths and barriers behind the successful agile deployment—insights from the three software intensive companies in Finland,” Empir. Soft. Eng., pp. 1—28, 2011.
  9. L. Vijayasarathy and D. Turk, “Drivers of agile software development use: Dialectic interplay between benefits and hindrances,” Inf. and Soft. Tech., vol. 54, pp. 137—148, 2012.
  10. S. Overhage et al., “What Makes IT Personnel Adopt Scrbum? A Framework of Drivers and Inhibitors to Developer Acceptance,” Proc. Hawaii International Conf. on System Sciences, 2011.
  11. C. Riemenschneider et al., “Explaining Software Developer Acceptance of Methodologies: A Comparison of Five Theoretical Models”, J. Tran. on Soft. Eng., vol. 28, pp. 1135—1145, 2002.
  12. M. Senapathi et al., “Factors Affecting Effectiveness of Agile Usage – Insights from the BBC Worldwide Case Study,” LNBIP, vol. 77, pp. 132—145, 2011.
  13. W. Cram, “Aligning Organizational Values in Systems Development Projects: An Empirical Study,” Proc. 44th Hawaii International Conf. on System Sciences, 2011.
  14. F. Karlsson and P. Ågerfalk, “Exploring agile values in method configuration”, Eur. J. Inf. Sys., vol. 18, pp. 300-316, 2009.
  15. J. Iivari and M. Huisman, “The Relationship Between Organisational Culture and the Deployment of Systems Development Methodologies,” MIS Quarterly, vol. 31, pp. 35—58, 2007.
  16. J. Iivari and N. Iivari, “The relationship between organizational culture and the deployment of agile methods,” J. Info. Soft. Tech., vol. 53, pp. 509—520, 2011.
  17. G. Moore and I. Benbasat, “Development of an Instrument to Measure the Perceptions of Adopting an Information Technology Innovation,”, J. Inf. Sys. Research, vol. 2, pp. 192—222, 1991.
  18. M. Ciolkowski et al., “Practical Experiences in the Design and Conduct of Surveys in Empirical Software Engineering,” LNBIP, vol. 2765, pp. 104—128, 2003.
  19. B.A. Kitchenham and S.L. Pfleeger, “Principles of Survey Research”, Parts 1-6. ACM SigSoft Software Engineering Notes, 26(6) – 28(2), 2001 – 2003.

This article was presented at SEAA2012 and published by IEEE Xplore. You could download it from here as well.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *