Theses Doctoral

Agile Innovation Team Learning: A Multiple Case Study of Agile Software Development Teams

Sleeva, Sheryl Lynn

Innovation is essential for growth, yet can be difficult to achieve due to the associated cost and risk. As such, organizations earnestly seek to adopt practices that positively impact innovation outcomes and improve innovation team effectiveness. Existing research has shown that team learning is an important enabler of innovation and that Agile software development practices have distinct advantages over traditional methods. However, little is understood about the learning dynamics of Agile teams, particularly in an innovation context where teams are focused on creating new product and technology solutions.

This qualitative multiple case study explored the perceptions of software development teams at two leading organizations in the HealthTech and InsureTech industries, in order to gain a deeper understanding of and expand what is known about how Agile teams learn and how they leverage learning to innovate. Participating teams were engaged in innovation work and used Agile methods to co-create solutions with customers. The study used multiple data collection methods, incorporated cross-team/cross-case analyses, and featured an integrated theoretical framework based on three team learning models: Dechant, Marsick & Kasl (1993), Edmondson (1999), and Decuyper, Dochy & Van den Bossche (2010).

Research results revealed that Agile teams learn informally, incidentally, and synergistically through eight dynamic, learning-rich, practice-driven experiences and that specific team learning behaviors and team innovative work behaviors that foster innovation are quite prevalent on Agile teams. Results also demonstrated that Agile values, principles, and practices shape and support team learning by creating a team-centered learning culture which facilitates collective thinking and action.

This study sets forth a new understanding of Agile practice-driven experiences as learning-centered work and demonstrates how large-scale Agile transformation helped to facilitate the reskilling and upskilling of experienced adult learners. It also emphasizes the importance of strategically leveraging Agile team learning at both the team and organizational levels and provides specific recommendations for research and practice. Empirical insights from this study can prove valuable for leaders and organizations employing Agile methods, as well as researchers and educators engaged in the advancement of innovation practice, workplace learning and technology workforce education.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
October 27, 2021