Understanding agile software development practices using shared mental models theory

Xiaodan Yu, Stacie Petter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Context Agile software development is an alternative software development methodology that originated from practice to encourage collaboration between developers and users, to leverage rapid development cycles, and to respond to changes in a dynamic environment. Although agile practices are widely used in organizations, academics call for more theoretical research to understand the value of agile software development methodologies. Objective This study uses shared mental models theory as a lens to examine practices from agile software methodologies to understand how agile practices enable software development teams to work together to complete tasks and work together effectively as a team. Method A conceptual analysis of specific agile practices was conducted using the lens of shared mental models theory. Three agile practices from Xtreme Programming and Scrum are examined in detail, system metaphor, stand-up meeting, and on-site customer, using shared mental models theory. Results Examining agile practices using shared mental models theory elucidates how agile practices improve collaboration during the software development process. The results explain how agile practices contribute toward a shared understanding and enhanced collaboration within the software development team. Conclusions This conceptual analysis demonstrates the value of agile practices in developing shared mental models (i.e. shared understanding) among developers and customers in software development teams. Some agile practices are useful in developing a shared understanding about the tasks to be completed, while other agile practices create shared mental models about team processes and team interactions. To elicit the desired outcomes of agile software development methods, software development teams should consider whether or not agile practices are used in a manner that enhances the team's shared understanding. Using three specific agile practices as examples, this research demonstrates how theory, such as shared mental models theory, can enhance our understanding regarding how agile practices are useful in enhancing collaboration in the workplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-921
Number of pages11
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Agile practices
  • Agile software development
  • Extreme programming
  • Scrum
  • Shared mental models theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding agile software development practices using shared mental models theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this