University of Twente Student Theses


Stimulating and facilitating individual learning and development in self-managing teams : an exploratory case study in the context of software development.

Hul, L. van 't (2018) Stimulating and facilitating individual learning and development in self-managing teams : an exploratory case study in the context of software development.

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Abstract:INTRODUCTION. A growing number of organisations has implemented self-managing teams to cope with their complex and rapidly changing environment. Especially in the context of software development, employees are confronted with short development and learning times and continuous changes in customer needs and technologies. In self-managing teams, employees are expected to take on greater responsibility for their own learning and development. At the same time, HR(D) professionals are challenged to build environments in which the learning potential of self-managing teams can be fully utilised. While self-managing teams are becoming increasingly implemented in organisations, the implications of self-management for individual learning and development have only received little attention in current research. OBJECTIVES. Therefore, this study addressed the research gap by investigating the learning activities employees of self-managing teams engage in, and the factors that enable and hinder learning in the context of software development. METHOD. An exploratory case study was performed in which semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 members of five multidisciplinary self-managing teams in an IT company. Participants differed in their craftsmanship: backend developers, frontend developers, user experience designers, graphic designers, and product owners participated in this study. RESULTS. In addition to many studies describing (inter-)team learning, the results of this study show that individuals also engage in different learning activities to develop themselves. First, individuals regularly took on new roles or tasks, implemented new technologies, helped others in their learning and learned further at home through hobby projects. Less often individuals participated in formal training or conferences, organised feedback sessions, consulted colleagues from other teams, or worked temporarily at or together with another team. Furthermore, this study reveals that multiple factors were found to enable or hinder learning in self-managing teams, each in its own way. This study shows that a self-managing team may be a stimulating work environment for employees that can self-direct their learning, but may be a pitfall for employees that find doing so more difficult. Moreover, employees of self-managing teams experience some lack of clarity about the distribution of responsibilities when it comes to learning and development. CONCLUSION. This study complements previous research by aligning research and practice through revealing the everyday challenges that self-managing teams face regarding learning and development. Furthermore, practical implications are discussed on how to further benefit the stimulating conditions, or adjust the hindering conditions for learning. Through for example providing time for experimenting, supporting and coaching teams in feedback giving and receiving, or starting the conversation about responsibility, learning and development can be further stimulated and facilitated in the case study company. While this study attempted to understand the implications of self-management for learning, future research should study teams for what they are as in practice teams cannot be compared. Future research would benefit from a ‘complexity’ or ‘systems theory’ approach to create more understanding of individual learning and development in contemporary organisations.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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