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Journal Article

The Dilution of Effort in Self‑Evaluating Development Teams: Agile Loafing  pp175-186

John McAvoy, Tom Butler

© Feb 2010 Volume 12 Issue 2, Editor: Shaun Pather, pp129 - 198

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Attempts to resolve the problems in software development have concentrated on the tools and methodologies used, despite an acceptance by many that it is a sociological problem. An example of this is the procedures and processes surrounding evaluations within projects, yet ultimately it depends on individuals more than process. This paper examines one of the sociological factors inherent in a software development team to determine its impact on evaluation within a project. Social loafing occurs where individual members of a team demonstrate a tendency not to work as hard as they could or should. This "slacking off" occurs because the team provides a degree of anonymity – the individual feels their lack of work will be hidden from evaluation within the overall output of the team. Some authors purport that Agile Software development teams have low incidences of social loafing (though these are opinions rather than research findings); the contrary can also be argued. An examination of the philosophy behind Agile Software Development, demonstrated by the Agile Manifesto, highlighted the possibility of occurrences of social loafing brought about by the Agile values. Agile espouses the importance of cohesive teams, the empowerment of these teams, and the collective ownership and self‑ evaluation of work by the team. These values map onto factors which are described as affecting social loafing. An investigation of two teams over an eight month period examined if the Agile values could lead to incidences of social loafing, specifically when their work is being evaluated The investigation determined that the opposite was actually the case. This paper then goes on to determine why the findings go against the initial hypothesis and to show the impact this can have on those evaluating software development projects.


Keywords: teams, agile software development, social loafing, self-evaluation, participant observation, sociological factors


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