What is Sociology?
• Study of social life, social
change, and the social
causes and consequences of
• Sociologists investigate the
structure of groups,
organizations, and societies,
and how people interact
within these contexts.
• All human behavior is social.
Why study Sociology?
• Software development is a human
endeavor involving three key pillars:
• Cognitive: come up with ideas to solve
• Emotional: passion drives meaningful
• Social: it takes a village to raise a child!
• Merely asking a team to become “agile”
without considering these pillars is
wishful thinking, dangerous and
Understanding Social World
• Groups, organizations, conventions,
social roles, conflicts and
cooperation are no less real than
physical particles and mental
• Social ontology examines what kind
of objects, relations, properties and
events they are, and how they
relate to mind and matter.
• The ability of individuals and groups
to exercise free will and make social
• A programmer knows Java
• …Can also write test scripts
• …And knows about UX
• …And is great with people
• …Is an excellent swimmer
• …And an awesome singer!
• …But, may/not get to do all that :(
• Patterned social arrangements designed to
bring an order and have an effect on agency.
• However, there is no structure without
• Agents give up their agency (submission)
to allow organizations to create structure
and make decisions at their behalf, and
• Agree to cooperate with other agents
(coordination) to the organization’s
• Examples: Family, Neighborhood,
Organization, Faith, etc.
Structure and Agency
Solidarity Social Control
Role of Structure
• By and large, structure has a much
bigger influence on an individual than
the individual’s own agency.
• Structure isn’t necessarily bad -
imagine if everyone starts driving
how it pleases them, etc.
• However, too much of structure might
stifle individual motivation, creativity
and performance, and finally impact
• The influence that shapes the
meaning of events, behavior,
words, and body language
• Someone pats you
• Couple kissing
• “I don’t like your idea”
Types of Structures
• Economic: producer / consumer, lord / serf,
professor / student, master / apprentice, senior
/ junior, etc.
• Cultural: Norms, Customers, Traditions,
Rituals, Ideologies, etc.
• Social: old / young, upper class / lower class,
• Racial: white / black, hispanic / asian, etc.
• Regional: insiders / outsiders,
• Gender: male / female
• Interest-based: Sports club, Celebrity Fan club,
Animal lovers, Nature lovers, …
Why do we give up our agency?
• Coercion: there is no other option but
to obey the orders, e.g. dictatorship,
physical force, intimidation, penalties,
• Exchange: the advantages (or,
benefits) outweigh the disadvantages
(or, costs), e.g. modern organizations
• Normative: to achieve some collective
outcomes of higher value, e.g. social,
community, open-source, wikipedia,
• Hierarchy establishes and preserves the rigid
top-down social order among agents who might
otherwise have individual agendas by
establishing a clear line of command
• Members are stripped of individuality and
forced to conform to common rules, e.g. jails,
cults, manufacturing shops, military,
government setup, etc.
• Individuality is derived from your place in the
social structure, e.g. rank, titles, seniority, etc.
• Creates micro-structures of one agent assuming
a dominant position over another, a micro
dynamic of power and authority
• They are like “utilitarian
organizations” - we offer to work
in return of fair wages
• However, when the “exchange” is
seen offering lower returns,
employees might leave
• Traditionally, relied on some form
of hierarchy (increasingly less
rigid) to establish social order
• Purpose: Shared belief over individual
• Participation: Voluntary over forced
• Coordination: Horizontal (networks) over
• Alignment: alignment of individual’s
agenda with that of whole over submission
• Decision-making: consensus over
• Governance: self-governance over
• A combination of these three forms
• Military: people join to serve the nation
(normative), get paid for their work
(exchange) and agree to stringent discipline
• Organisation: employees believe in the
vision, mission and values (normative), get
paid salaries and benefits (exchange) and
agree to organizational policies and
procedures (HR, Admin, Budget, Roles and
Traditional Project Team
• Composed of:
• Manager: power-holder, ensures
compliance with the structures,
provides direction, etc.
• Team: brings the agency,
surrenders to the structure, trusts
manager with the right judgment
• Worked “well” in production era due
to prevailing economic and social
Traditional Project Team
• Coercion: standard processes
(assembly-line approach), designated
roles, assigned work, imposed
deadlines, etc., etc.
• Exchange: “lifetime” job, steady
paycheck, social prestige, promotions,
learning, career growth, etc.
• Normative: not much really. More of
company loyalty, corporate
• Describe how individuals and teams
would like to have the following:
• Does your current “process” deliver
• How is your current
“transformation” approach to it?
Industrial to Knowledge Era
Industrial Era Knowledge Era
What’s a transformation?
• A permanent and self-sustaining
• agency (i.e., personal change, e.g.
learn swimming, quit smoking, or
• structure (i.e., organizational change,
e.g. delayer the organization, or
radically change the business model)
• They are interdependent!
• Can’t change one without other
• Must leverage each other
What does agile transformation mean?
• Adopting methodologies or frameworks such as
Scrum, XP, Kanban, etc.?
• Adopting methods such as TDD, CI/CD, Refactoring,
• Adopting tools such as JIRA, VersionOne, Rally, etc.?
• Adopting scaling frameworks such as SAFe, LeSS,
• Training individuals?
• Agile certifications?
• Provide coaching?
• Open-plan offices?
• Sticky notes?
• Daily standups?
Adoption vs. Transformation
• Agile adoption is changing the
agency of the team, e.g. provide
scrum training or bring in some
agile methods. Sure, it works!
• However, unless it is coupled
with commensurate change in
the structure of the organization,
it might only temporary and
never in equilibrium.
So, how to “transform”?
• Multiple levels of changes need to
• Team Dynamics
• Organization Processes
• Leadership and Culture
• Individuals bring their own agency,
but need support, alignment and
reinforcement from leadership.
• Team of equals
• People first, process reasonably-
placed second and tools a
distant third (if at all!)
• Goal-setting: one for all, all for
• Feedback from peers in the
• Team rewards (vs. Individual)
• Starfish organization
Leadership and Culture
• Respect and nurture agency
• Evolve a culture of
• “Safe to fail” culture
• Get the right people and get out
of the way - gardner vs
• Maintain bottomline
So, what is transformation?
• Status quo: Methods and structures
determine agency behavior
• Adoption: people “blindly” follow the
agile processes, methods or tools
• Efficiency: agents apply knowledge
based on the context to improve
• Effectiveness: agents improvise,
rebuild or create structure to align
with business goals
A “transformed” org?
• An urban myth! A real
transformation has no finish line.
• Transformation is not code
quality or velocity. It is business
• Perennially sustain the new
“default” state without any
“scaffolds” and organically evolve
• Software development is a social
• Traditional approach was to impose a
• Agile approach is to nurture the agency
and let the structure evolve organically.
• Mere adoption of agile methodologies or
methods won’t create a “transformation”
• Leadership needs to own the change
agenda and facilitate agile