Designing for Agility as an Organizational Capability: Learning from a Software Development Firm

By James Sena, Jean-Francois Coget and A.B. (Rami) Shani.

Published by The Organization Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the nature of agility in an organizational setting -- how a software development firm (SDF) developed, maintained and enhanced agility as it changed from a developer of experimental prototypes to a product-based provider. Qualitative approach based on extensive interviews and on-site observations at two points in time separated by a five-year interval. Agility mechanisms tend to be dynamic and evolve over time. At time 1, SDF achieved agility by adopting a formal platform-based product design and an informal, organic organizational structure. By time 2, SDF had adopted a modular-based product design and a more formal structure.
Implications include: (1) interdisciplinary-based framework to understand agility in the workplace; (2) multiple forms of agility and the dynamics among them; (3) re-conceptualization of agility as a new organizational capability; and, (4) causal relationship between agility and other organizational learning mechanisms. Limitations include: (1) the tentative theory building (as opposed to theory testing) qualitative approach; and, (2) single case study within a specific industry. (Practical Implications: 1) By adopting agility mechanism software development firms may overcome strategic challenges in the software industry: extensive reworks, death marches, and client support services; (2) over time managers should explore alternative mechanisms to sustain agility; and (3) agility-by-design is likely to facilitate firm success and growth.

Keywords: Agility, Software Development Firm, Learning Mechanisms, Organizational Capability

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp.17-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.503MB).

Dr. James Sena

Professor of Management and Information Systems, Orfalea College of Business, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA

Professor of Management & Information Systems Education Ph.D. Management Information Systems, University of Kentucky M.S. Information Science, University of Dayton, MBA Operations Research, Xavier University of Ohio, Graduate work, Actuarial Science, University of Iowa, B.S. Mathematics, Xavier University of Ohio, Teaching Specializations Organization Systems and Technology, Project Management, Computer Security. Network Systems, Java, Data Structures, Management Information Systems, Decision Support and Expert Systems, Operations research, Data Warehouse & Data Mining Additional College/University Experience Visiting Research Scholar, Norwegian Institute of Technology, Fulbright Award, Trondheim, Norway; Assistant Professor, Texas A and M University, College Station, Texas; Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Clear Lake City, Texas; Assistant Professor, University of Louisville. Research Interests and Experience Knowledge Management, CISCO Network Management; Agent-based components; Platform Architectures; Sustainable Work Systems; Process Analysis and Reengineering, Research and Development of group decision making and organizational analysis computer software. Use of Windows software development tools to create management support systems - Visual Studio, Java, MS Excel & Access, and impact of computer-based information technologies. Areas Published Computer Security, Learning Mechanisms, Sustainable Work Systems, knowledge Management, Intellectual Capital, Accounting Information Systems, Deployment of Software Tools in Organizations, Impact and Assessment of Local Area Networks in Organizations, Expert Systems, Decision Support Systems, Impact and Assessment of Information Technologies on Organizations.

Dr. Jean-Francois Coget

Assistant Professor, Orfalea College of Business, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA

Jean-Fran├žois Coget is an Assistant Professor of Management at the Orfalea College of Business at CalPoly, San Luis Obispo, where he teaches Organizational Behavior and Business Consulting classes. He earned his Ph.D. from the Anderson School at UCLA, and was previously a faculty member at HEC Paris. His research interests include emotions in organizations, intuitive decision-making, and charismatic leadership. His overarching professional goal is to contribute to the creation and the dissemination of actionable knowledge and practices that can help managers-citizens to organize a productive, creative, ethical, and sustainable cooperation among people.

A.B. (Rami) Shani

California Polytechnic State University, California, USA


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