Seminar at Brigham Young University – Antecedents of Effectiveness

The definition of effectiveness is important because what affects effectiveness (positive and negatively) depends on this definition, as well as the identification of factors that moderate or mediate the effects.

Our first studies on antecedents of effectiveness were on motivation (2007…). The “level of effort applied to tasks” is proposed as an antecedent of effectiveness by Hackman (1987) and supported in Yeatts and Hyten’s (1998) model, and this level of effort is driven by motivation. These models hypothesize that the more motivated the individual, more effort he or she applies to the task. Therefore, understanding motivation was an important step to understand effectiveness. Using a set of 20 motivators presented in a systematic literature review developed by Sarah Beecham and colleagues (Beecham 2008), we conducted a survey with software engineers from industry to identify the influence of each motivator on individual motivation. We grouped the motivators using principal component analysis and arrived at results that fit quite well on Hackman’s model (Hackman, 1987). We used these results to support the proposition of guidelines to develop motivational programs.

In 2009, we started a study about antecedents of success in Agile development. We focused that study on SCRUM projects. Our goal was to correlate the use of agile practices, as proposed as success factors by Chow and Cao, and the success of projects that used SCRUM. Our results (reported here and summarized here), showed that, in the particular context studied, only a subset of the success factors proposed by Chow and Chow correlated to project success.

We also investigated another type of antecedents that are related to team composition. In 2008, we started a mix method studie involving qualitative and quantitative research, to identify the criteria used by project managers to select members for software teams. We also correlated the level of use (formal, informal, not used) of these criteria with project success (a type of team effectiveness). The results, published last year at ESEM’2011, showed that the use of the criteria correlates with project success. That is, teams that were built using the set of criteria in a rigorous way were those that achieved more success.

So, at this point, we think we probably know (0OI) a couple of results things antecedents of effectiveness. However, we also know that we don’t know a lot of other things (1OI). For instance,

. how is motivation related to effectiveness? in other words, how is motivation related to all facets of effectiveness, including productivity, team member satisfaction, team continuity, etc.?

. what are the contextual factors that made only a few success factors correlate to project success in our SCRUM study? Are Chow and Cao wrong? We don’t think so. What is more likely is that (1) the success factors depend on contextual factors (moderators and mediators) that were not properly addressed because we did not know about them (2OI) and/or (2) the success factors affect different aspects of effectiveness that were not measured because we used a very simple (maybe oversimple) operationalization of success.

. it seems clear (from our results and also from various other studies in group theory) that team composition affects effectiveness. What is less clear is how team composition affects effectiveness and how task type and development process moderates this effect.

I plan to show the results of the research described above and then elaborate  more on the questions that we are investigating with respect to antecedents of effectiveness. At this point in the seminar, I hope to start to show the model we are consolidating (from other researchers) and testing (with our empirical studies).

Fabio Silva.


Beecham, S., et al., 2008. Motivation in software engineering: a systematic literature review. Information and software Technology, vol. 50. Elsevier, pp. 860– 878.

T. Chow; D. Cao, (2007) A Survey Study of Critical Success Factors in Agile Software Projects. The Journal of Systems and Software, n. 81, pp. 961–971.

Hackman J (1987) The design of work teams. Handbook of organizational behavior 315-342.

Yeatts DE, Hyten C (1998) High-performing self-managed work teams. Sage Publications, Inc.


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