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Diagnostic Control Systems

I get updated info through several ways: weekly reports about the progress and then I have to report their progress to other forum like the release project.” [Product owner]

Normally the teams have, according to the Scrum, meetings every day in the morning in which they discuss about the progresses, we try to be present to this meeting to listen what it is going on. [Line manager]

Concertive Control

Now we are working with new products and we have to learn how they work—at least so much that we can see where and how to do the implementations. But to really understand the product (to be able to make improvements) that takes time. Before you have knowledge about the product, now you even don’t know if you can propose/do any improvementsspending time on investigation without any outcome isn’t so popular I guess... Teams don’t spend time on digging the product, people are just making features. [Team member]

Specifically, team attitudes mirror the values transmitted through line management together with their social environment and represent the basic values which drive team intentions. In Agile, team members consider the priority to be the development of features not innovation and learning. As a result, they prioritize project deadlines which they feel adds pressure, and do not implement strategies to foster learning. Identification with a social group may increase the importance of an attitude if the team’s rights are considered to be a stake (Key, 1961; Modigliani and Gamson, 1979).

Hence we stipulate the following:

Research Proposition 8: Team members ’ attitudes about the importance of group innovation are positively related to injunctive norms about group innovation.

Research Proposition 9: Team members ’ attitude to the importance of group innovation mediates the relationship between group identification and injunctive norms about group innovation.

In an Agile context, the effects of boundary control systems, defined as the formal systems used by top management to establish obligatory limits and rules (Simons, 1994), are to impose complex Agile routines/ceremo- nies that apply to team members. Among these, product backlog seems to limit the team’s freedom to allocate time to anything not clearly included in the specific time-period (or sprint). The following quotes are illustrative:

[It is] very difficult to get time for competence development, very tight time schedule [Team member].

Transparency of the organization means that even small prioritization issues are quickly escalated. There are no buffers since product management keeps the teams 100% busy. This means that small additional tasks require the involvement of product management for decisions. [Team member]

Diagnostic control systems are defined as formal feedback systems used to monitor team outcomes and correct deviations from preset performance standards (Simons, 1994). They are represented by the short feedback loops in the Agile framework. Examples of feedbacks include daily standup meetings, continuous integration activities, three-weekly demo and retrospective, frequent meetings with product owners to track team progress, and information radiators to constantly monitor team competence. The presence of these short feedback loops ensures a correct focus and allocation of time to team activities but generates stress and pressure among team members. Consistent with this one informant told us:

Concerning the stress you feel, in Agile the way of working is stressful. Management wants us to deliver code every day for testing, to find out if new code breaks legacy functionality. But the delivery process is not good enough. When people make mistakes, you have to roll back and many people are waiting for you. This way of working is not so effective. It should be modified somehow. [Team member]

Barker (1993) defines concertive control systems for self-regulating teams as normative controls that become restrictive for individual team members, creating high levels of stress. The effect of concertive control is that people feel they are being watched and their contribution to team goals checked up on. They feel unable to divert to activities not strictly related to those of other team members and the project. There is implicit pressure to finish the task as soon as possible in order to start on the next one. The following statement highlights this situation:

You have this tight control on what you are doing. As soon as you are ready, you go to the board and take a new task. So there is pressure to go through this kind of work packages as quickly as possible. And there is also “peer” pressure—if you are in a team, everyone knows what everyone else is doing. [Team member]

In order to clarify the impact and the relevance of these constructs on the team’s injunctive norms, we need to introduce the concepts of goal desirability and goal feasibility as norms concerned with the desirability of the means and goals. Goal desirability and goal feasibility are two constructs to explain goal-directed behavior. They have been described as key concepts (e.g., Atkinson, 1964, Liberman and Trope, 1998; Gollwitzer, 1990). They have been related to the concepts of desire and belief in the philosophy of action (Mele, 1997), and goal desire in turn has been defined as “the valence of an action’s end state, whereas belief regards the ease or difficulty of reaching the end state” (Liberman and Trope, 1998, p.7).

Specifically, goal desire indicates desire for a behavior, while goal perceived feasibility is perceived as behavioral control (Perugini et al., 2000). Hence, an increase or decrease in the desire for a goal should lead to an increase or decrease in the desire for the behavior functionally tied to the goal. At the same time, an increase in perceived goal feasibility should produce an increase in perceived behavioral control and the influence of perceived goal feasibility on perceived behavioral control should very high given the functional link between goals and behaviors (Perugini and Conner, 2000). Thus, as behaviors are selected based on their usefulness for achieving a goal, a certain level of perceived easiness of the goal should induce a choice of behaviors perceived to be at a corresponding level of feasibility and personal control (Perugini and Conner, 2000). According to Perugini and Conner (2000) the motivation and the volition to perform a given behavior is usually a function of both distal (e.g., the desired goal) and proximal variables (e.g., perceived control over a given behavior). Based on the above, we can assume that collective injunctive norms in teams are determined by the diagnostic controls, contributing to the goal desirability and limited by the boundary control related to the implementation of Agile methodologies combined with the interpersonal pressure imposed by the concertive control which simultaneously influences the formation of perceived control. Boundary and concertive controls contribute to the perception of goal feasibility within the team and act to limit team members’ actions.

Hence we stipulate the following:

Research Proposition 10: Injunctive norms about group innovation in self-managing teams are determined by the implementation of diagnostic controls, which contribute to the desire for innovation action by imposing continuous monitoring on the team's work

Research Proposition 11: Injunctive norms are influenced by the team's perception of feasibility of the innovation activity, which is determined by the related concertive control and boundary controls defining the constraints on team’s actions and impacting the perceived behavioral control of team members.

 
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