Published in The International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management., Volume 9, Issue 5, January 1, 2009, pages 17-38.
Copyright © 2009 Common Ground Publisher.
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.