Dr Zainab Masood successfully defended her PhD thesis titled the “Theory of Practicing and Making Self-Assignment Work”. Her research investigated how self-assignment works in Scrum teams. Self-assignment is a self-directed method of task allocation where teams and individuals select and assign work for themselves (you can look at different methods here). It is known to have multiple benefits, e.g., providing the opportunity to work on a variety of tasks, improving competences, and creating a greater sense of ownership and responsibility amongst team members. Her research applied Grounded Theory. She collected data through interviews with 53 participants from 26 software companies and supplemented these interviews with observations.

She found that practicing self-assignment is not easy and straightforward. It comes with a set of challenges (you can read about them here) due variations in practicing Scrum (see examples here) and different preferences of developers (reported here). Developers cannot simply walk up to a task board and assign work items of choice to themselves. Team members have to make reasonable choices that align with business goals to make self-assignment work sustainably (check how here). The role of the managers is also important in ensuring the sustainability of the self-assignment practice. The findings will help practitioners understand different aspects of self-assignment and practice it with confidence regularly as a valuable practice. Additionally, it will help teams already practicing self-assignment to apply strategies to overcome the challenges they face on an everyday basis.

For more information about the research outcomes, check out her publications related to this work:

[1] Zainab Masood, Rashina Hoda, and Kelly Blincoe, What Drives and Sustains Self-Assignment in Agile Teams In IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 2021. Available at https://arxiv.org/pdf/2108.04981.pdf

[2] Zainab Masood, Rashina Hoda, and Kelly Blincoe, Real World Scrum A Grounded Theory of Variations in Practice In IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 2020. Available at https://arxiv.org/pdf/2103.15268.pdf

[3] Zainab Masood, Rashina Hoda, and Kelly Blincoe, How agile teams make self-assignment work: a grounded theory study in Empirical Software Engineering, 2020. Available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10664-020-09876-x

[4] Zainab Masood, Rashina Hoda, Kelly Blincoe, Exploring Workflow Mechanisms and Task Allocation Strategies in Agile Software Teams, Agile Processes in Software Engineering and Extreme Programming, Springer, 2017. Available at https://kblincoe.github.io/publications/2017_XP_workflow.pdf

[5] Zainab Masood, Rashina Hoda, Kelly Blincoe, Motivation for Self-Assignment: Factors Agile Developers Consider, Cooperative and Human Aspects of Software Engineering (CHASE), Proceedings of the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), 2017. Available at https://kblincoe.github.io/publications/2017_CHASE_SelfAssignment.pdf