Monday 19 November 2007

XPDay 2007: The Social Nature of Agile Teams - Elizabeth Whitworth

Why are agile developers so excited?

  • What aspects of agile dev are related to team cohesion?
  • What makes a team really gel on a project?

Speed & ease of interaction:

  • whole team involvement
  • trust, openness, respect
  • culture of action & change
    • immediate action that they could take in the near future
    • individuals could see themselves make a change
  • agile participants had a more collective viewpoint

Social identity theory

  • in-group out-group bias: just naming different groups biases the dynamic
  • agile culture increases the strength of the project group identity rather than dev, biz, etc


Planning game makes the conflicts more visible and allows developers to take more ownership over development process

Planning responds to team needs — tasks are neither to hard (anxiety) or too easy (boredom) — increases feeling of flow

Short term planning increased willingness to compromise — team interactions more relaxed

  • increased feelings of security & comfort

Long term planning hard to do as a team

  • gives rise to feelings of insecure, apprehension, stress
  • having to make decisions for things 6 months in advance

Regular Iterations

No definite end goal caused loss of “buzz” — group motivation & focus hard to maintain

Consistent delivery over multiple iterations gave rise to feelings of confidence & security

Whole team awareness

Constant feedback to individuals that all team members share awareness of team activity & share commitment to goals

Supported by daily group standup:

  • Forum for non-task based issues
  • Extra motivation (disapproval from team) and validation of requests
  • Recognition of what’s possible and what’s not
  • Communication is not need-based — allows other topics

Group standup supported by chunked activities

  • Something to report if small enough chunks
  • Loss of motivation if stuck on same task for whole week

Information Radiators: noticeable measures of progress

  • completed stories “give endorphin rush”
  • also supports awareness of individual contributions to team goal (others as well as self)


Increased sense of control & self-efficacy improves performance

Conclusion & Questions

Have a list of weaknesses at end of project, for example:

  • agile focussed on developers — makes them feel good, but QA & documentation felt isolated
  • high-level of interaction sometimes resulted in burn-out

Data collected from:

  • 5 participants from one company
  • 17 participants each from different companies

Agile is a method that helps people work as a team in the software development environment

Frank Maurer (Uni. Calgary): agile planner — distributed planning for agile teams

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