Context: Companies increasingly strive to adapt to market and ecosystem changes in real time. Gauging and understanding team performance in such changing environments present a major challenge. Objective: This paper aims to understand how software developers experience the continuous adaptation of performance in a modern, highly volatile environment using Lean and Agile software development methodology. This understanding can be used as a basis for guiding formation and maintenance of high-performing teams, to inform performance improvement initiatives, and to improve working conditions for software developers. Method: A qualitative multiple-case study using thematic interviews was conducted with 16 experienced practitioners in five organisations. Results: We generated a grounded theory, Performance Alignment Work, showing how software developers experience performance. We found 33 major categories of performance factors and relationships between the factors. A cross-case comparison revealed similarities and differences between different kinds and different sizes of organisations. Conclusions: Based on our study, software teams are engaged in a constant cycle of interpreting their own performance and negotiating its alignment with other stakeholders. While differences across organisational sizes exist, a common set of performance experiences is present despite differences in context variables. Enhancing performance experiences requires integration of soft factors, such as communication, team spirit, team identity, and values, into the overall development process. Our findings suggest a view of software development and software team performance that centres around behavioural and social sciences.
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