Using the Work and Organizational Psychology Perspective in Research on Agile Software Development Teams
Licentiatavhandling, 2015

Background: The development of software has gone from more strict plan-driven projects to involve more human interaction and communication due to approaches like agile software development. With the realization of the importance of psychological aspect comes the possibility of learning from other more established research fields instead of reinventing the wheel. Objective: In the field of work and organizational psychology there is an extensive body of knowledge of work-life in many different contexts. The objective of this thesis is to show some examples of how both methods and models from psychology research can be used in software engineering and specifically to understand agile software development teams. The selected models and tools were; new aspects of work motivation in agile teams in larger organizations, statistical tests of validation (factor analysis), and using the social psychology model of group development in connection to agile teams. Method: The appended papers consist of both exploratory, correlative and validation studies. The research methods range from interviews, focus groups, and survey data as well as qualitative and quantitative interpretations. Eight companies participated consisting of two European-based and six US-based organizations, and a total of 76 people participated in the studies. The data collection procedures were also diverse ranging from recorded in-person interviews and focus groups, to online surveys and remotely recorded phone interviews. Results: The analysis included thematic ditto of interview transcripts, correlation of variables in survey data, and statistical validation tests of a survey itself. Some studies used one research methodology while other triangulate the research question in order to increase the validity of the results. The results strongly indicate that many agile maturity models need more validation, that there are work motivational aspects of employees working on agile teams in a more traditional structure, and that the group development aspect of building agile teams contributes with concrete guidance on moving teams forward. Conclusions: We conclude that there are a set of useful methods and models in work and organizational psychology that are applicable, specifically, to the agile software development context of teams, but also, more generally to a larger perspective of software engineering that involves human factors. This thesis will hopefully convince researchers and practitioners of the usefulness of adding the psychological dimension when trying to understand such social and complex systems.

Empirical Research

Agile Software Development

Software Engineering

Work and Organizational Psychology

Group Development

Room J243, Jupiter Building, Lindholmen
Opponent: Associate Professor Dietmar Pfahl, University of Tartu, Estonia and University of Calgary, Canada


Lucas Gren

Göteborgs universitet


Tillämpad psykologi




Room J243, Jupiter Building, Lindholmen

Opponent: Associate Professor Dietmar Pfahl, University of Tartu, Estonia and University of Calgary, Canada

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