Communications of the Association for Information Systems


Research into organizations has concluded that organizational effectiveness is paradoxical (i.e., effective organizations must have simultaneously contradictory, even mutually exclusive, attributes). Although systems development projects constitute temporary organizations, researchers have largely omitted the paradox lens in their context. In this paper, I move toward rectifying the situation by focusing specifically on the agile software development (ASD) as a timely systems development approach in practice. I identify 11 interrelated and actable paradoxical tensions concerning the priority, structure, and execution of systems development projects. Each tension imposes competing demands on projects. To address them requires human ingenuity and judgement, though systems development methods and approaches can provide aid. I show that ASD comprises mechanisms for that purpose largely due to the reflective nature of the ASD process in which each retrospective assesses what went well in the previous sprint (iteration) and what could be improved in the next sprint. At the same time, ASD has built-in flexibility that makes it possible to adapt the method-in-use when deemed necessary or reasonable.