Anti-patterns in Agile Adoption: A Grounded Theory Case Study of One Irish IT Organisation

Peter J. Carew, David Glynn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a case study of one traditionally non-agile Information Technology (IT) services organisation in Ireland during its transition to implementing and using an agile development framework. The case study follows the experiences of using Scrum for a major IT systems conversion project in the insurance industry over the course of 9 months and 18 sprint cycles. A grounded theory approach was adopted to organically understand how productivity, effectiveness and workflow priorities emerged and were influenced by the agile approach. Secondary data sources, including the minutes of official track meetings and other stakeholder emails into the Scrum team, were analysed and categorised. A total of 460 work item requests were identified in the data, and a total of 88 work topic categories ultimately emerged from the grounded analysis. The 12 most repetitive topic categories, having demonstrated good data saturation, were subsequently selected for further analysis. The findings suggest that recurrent ad hoc requests from stakeholders into the Scrum development team significantly interrupted work on prioritised work items, making sprint objectives difficult to achieve and affecting Scrum team productivity and effectiveness overall. There was also broad evidence that powerful stakeholders tended to adhere to a traditional non-agile management philosophy, thus undermining the self-organising flexibility required by the agile approach. Stakeholders also often had no shared notion of when a work item or sprint goal was complete, thus contributing to the agile anti-patterns observed and suggesting that an agile culture had yet to emerge or instil within the traditionally non-agile organisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-289
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Journal of Flexible Systems Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2017


  • Agile
  • Anti-patterns
  • Case study
  • Grounded theory
  • Scrum


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