The Translation and Adaptation of Agile Methods: A Discourse of Fragmentation and Articulation

Jan Pries-Heje, Richard Baskerville

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Technology and People
Volume30
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)396-423
ISSN0959-3845
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Organizational change
  • Discourse analysis
  • Adoption
  • Case study
  • Information systems development (ISD)
  • Agile computing

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