Organisational rhetoric and leadership in agile : a Wittgensteinian inquiry.

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2022
Thesis identifier
  • T16166
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201675717
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • The focal point of this research has been the unpicking of reported experience versus rhetoric around a neo-bureaucratic approach to project management, referred to as “Agile”. This monolithic entity consists of many distinct methodologies, with an overlapping conceptual core. An understanding of Agile discourse is established through the data analysed as an object of comparison. The research findings speak to the space of legitimated expression and action, the depth grammar, of Agile organisation. The research was undertaken from a perspective of leadership agnosticism, in that the term was sceptically treated and included only in an emic capacity. The research is a coding-based analysis which runs across three strands of linguistic “metafunction”, as defined by Michael Halliday’s “Systemic Functional Grammar”. A total of 35 Agile experience reports were analysed through this process. The codes derived in this first pass were aggregated into groupings based on the perceived relation of events captured, termed manifestations. These manifestations were then themselves aggregated into a smaller set of categories. In practice, this meant a reduction from 138 codes, grouping similar exemplars, to 16 manifestations and then 6 categories. These categories establish the core concepts around which the depth grammar is presented through the first discussion chapter. This research has two primary contributions to Agile and another relating to leadership. In leadership studies, this research stands as an early empirical demonstration of the value in leadership agnosticism. Relating to Agile, a much needed description of the focal points of organisational talk in Agile practice is provided. Furthermore, it is argued that concepts of leadership had a significant role to play in disguising the continued operation of power in Agile contexts. This thesis, then, represents a contribution to Agile literature by providing a fuller exploration of the empirical challenges facing Agile’s idealised “Santa’s workshop” or “Hollywood/Disneyland” template.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Smith, Marisa
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2020