Title

Measurements, feedback and empowerment: Critical systems theory as a basis for software process improvement

Abstract

While organizations in software industry want to portray themselves as professional in terms of

following standards and methods, they may also have needs for improvising and short-cutting when

necessary. Such dilemmas of dual logics are sometimes internally resolved by evolving a false belief of

what is done (practice) being in correspondence to what is said (standards), regardless of what an

empirical investigation might show, something that can have poor business implications and also poor

social implications. Particularly focusing on this latter point, the meta-methodology of total systems

interventions (TSI) has been used for integrating critical systems theory with total quality

management, improving social conditions in parallel with improving business processes. Although

TSI is not designed for liberating organizations where nobody see themselves in need of liberation, the

hypothesis of this paper is that it is possible to design quality management systems as “conflict

machines”, causing sufficient social tension for more or less automatically changing “fake quality”

into “real quality”. The hypothesis is investigated by applying design research in a Scandinavian

public sector organization. The findings consist of statistical and interpretative evidence for the

success of the approach, making a contribution to how TSI can be applied in the software industry.

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