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MIT Research Finding Corroborates Agile Principles

We, the agile practitioners, had known it all along

We, the agile practitioners, had known it all along.

Teams where all members participate equally, collaborate with each other and self-organize produces better software!

Authors of the agile manifesto had experientially learned this. Now researchers from MIT and CMU have experimentally arrived at the same conclusion!

In a research study, “Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups” by Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone comes to more or less the same conclusion.

Let us briefly see what the study has to say about group effectiveness.

What impacts group IQ?

Three Negatives …

  1. Average IQ of the group has very little impact on the group IQ.
  2. The IQ of the smartest member of the group also has very little impact.
  3. Group satisfaction, cohesion and motivation also does not have much impact on the group IQ

…and Three Positives

  1. Social sensitivity of the group members or their EQ
  2. Participation of all group members
  3. Number of women in the group

Other findings and recommendations

  • Group performance goes down when one person dominates
  • Extremely homogenous or extremely heterogeneous groups are less intelligent
  • Size could diminish group IQ – but collaboration technology may help minimizing the impact

Four Do’s and Don’ts for group member (and group leader)

  1. Listen to each other
  2. Share criticism constructively
  3. Have an open mind
  4. Do not be autocratic

How does this correlate with agile principles?

The agile manifesto emphasizes “Individuals and interactions” & “Customer collaboration”.

Principles behind the agile manifesto contain these points:

  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

There is a remarkable similarity. For example here are some of the common practices followed by agile team:

  • Scrum masters are expected only to facilitate – not to dictate.
  • Each team member should take turn to speak – nobody should dominate the conversation.
  • Face-to-face communication works best

Well, I must admit that I have not seen any recommendation on team effectiveness and the percentage of women in the team.

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More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
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