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The translation and adaptation of agile methods: a discourse of fragmentation and articulation

Jan Pries-Heje (Department of People and Technology, Roskilde University, Denmark)
Richard Baskerville (Department of Computer Information System, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA) (Curtin University, Perth, Australia)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 5 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to use translation theory to develop a framework (called FTRA) that explains how companies adopt agile methods in a discourse of fragmentation and articulation.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative multiple case study of six firms using the Scrum agile methodology. Data were collected using mixed methods and analyzed using three progressive coding cycles and analytic induction.

Findings

In practice, people translate agile methods for local settings by choosing fragments of the method and continuously re-articulating them according to the exact needs of the time and place. The authors coded the fragments as technological rules that share relationships within a framework spanning two dimensions: static-dynamic and actor-artifact.

Research limitations/implications

For consistency, the six cases intentionally represent one instance of agile methodology (Scrum). This limits the confidence that the framework is suitable for other kinds of methodologies.

Practical implications

The FTRA framework and the technological rules are promising for use in practice as a prescriptive or even normative frame for governing methodology adaptation.

Social implications

Framing agile adaption with translation theory surfaces how the discourse between translocal (global) and local practice yields the social construction of agile methods. This result contrasts the more functionalist engineering perspective and privileges changeability over performance.

Originality/value

The use of translation theory and the FTRA framework to explain how agile adaptation (in particular Scrum) emerges continuously in a process where method fragments are articulated and re-articulated to momentarily suit the local setting. Complete agility that rapidly and elegantly changes its own environment must, as a concomitant, rapidly and elegantly change itself. This understanding also elaborates translation theory by explaining how the articulation and re-articulation of ideas embody the means by which ideas travel in practice.

Keywords

Citation

Pries-Heje, J. and Baskerville, R. (2017), "The translation and adaptation of agile methods: a discourse of fragmentation and articulation", Information Technology & People, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 396-423. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-08-2013-0151

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited