Mentality Patterns: Recurring Turns of Mind as First-Class Concerns in Software Engineering
thesisposted on 24.02.2012, 12:44 by Georgios Koutsoukos
A wide variety of sources indicate the existence of certain recurring turns of mind, usually referred to as mentality, that have significant impact in software engineering practice. Some of those turns of mind are established to the point that certain designations, for instance “not invented here” or “us and them”, have already been attributed to them. However, whereas agreement on existence is clear, there is significant ambiguity or even inconsistency in the way those are discussed and considered. In other words, there is a noticeable absence of a standardised and systematic means to define, characterize and communicate such recurring mentality elements. Consequently, existing knowledge and practices on the matter are kept on people’s minds or used in narrow contexts. Moreover, very little has been published on methods that can assist colleagues to approach the subject in their work practices in a more organized way. This thesis reports on research performed over several years, from both a researcher and practitioner perspective in the “real-life” field, and makes the following contributions: • It presents the notion of Mentality Pattern as an abstraction and representation primitive through which we can capture, make explicit, systematise and communicate such human-mentality elements. • It uses the primitive to define a Mentality Innovation Sub-process as an organized way to infuse such mentality issues as first-class concerns into software engineering practice. • It provides a support system through which a repository of mentality patterns and associated knowledge and experiences can be built and shared. Results in practice are very encouraging in what concerns the capacity of the Mentality Pattern primitive to organize different perceptions, facilitate the identification of recurring “mentalities” and act as a common communication mechanism. Moreover, there is evidence that for some mentality patterns the sub-process can drive a constructive change in the way people operate in teams. On the other hand, there exist recurring mentalities that are more persistent. Finally, based on relevant findings, this thesis calls for an intensification of research on the mentality phenomenon in software engineering and makes concrete recommendations in that respect.