Monday, December 22, 2014

A-DAR-able Moments

[Dear Readers, our good friend Pat O’Toole, CMMI expert and seasoned consultant, is collaborating with us on a new monthly series of CMMI-related posts, "Just the FAQs." Our goal with these posts is to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about the CMMI, SCAMPI, engineering strategy and software process improvement. This month Jeff discusses Decision, Analysis and Resolution (DAR).  Take it away! ~ the CMMI Appraiser]

This DAR thing just seems silly to me.  Aren’t we supposed to be experts?  Why do I need a bunch of overhead when I’m smart enough to make the call on my own?

Make the call on your own?  That’s so a-DAR-able!  And it reminds me of a little story…

Back in the early 90’s I was leading a software project to develop a retail point-of-sale system for a major department store (yeah, we were pretty “RAD” back in the day….), and the job of selecting a code library that provided basic retail functionality fell to my team.

We quickly assembled a list of available suppliers some members of the team had heard of, and asked them to provide us more information about their code libraries.  Even though we didn’t conduct a “formal” selection process, we thought we were asking the right questions about platform, funtionality, cost, and viability.

After lining all of them up side-by-side, we had three solid, but similar, choices that ran in a text-based Linux environment, and one that ran on the then new-fangled Windows platform with a touch screen. Wait. Touch screen? Graphics? Ooooh.  Our inner-nerds were salivating!

While we went about the process of discussing our options, the buzz around the office about “touch screen” was palpable.  Words like “sexy”, “innovative”, and “groundbreaking” could be heard at all levels of the company.  Text-based systems were “old-school”, “yesterday’s news”, and “boring.” The CEO even weighed-in and said the new graphical interface would be the “soul” of the new system.

The CIO, who reviewed the data and found the touch screen system to be lacking in functionality while higher in cost, added a column to our matrix which he labled “pizzazz.”

Oy vey.

I think you know the rest of the story.  I don’t need to tell you about how the momentum to choose that touch screen system was unstoppable, or that the code library of basic retail functions didn’t even WORK, or that the entire project was a disaster that resulted in substantial cost and schedule overrruns.  No, I don’t need to tell you THAT story….

But I do need to tell you about the “3D’s.”

The 3D’s is a tool I use to remind myself about that project – and to help make sure that it never happens again.  It stands for Deliberate, Durable, and Defendable.  If you’ve taken one of my CMMI classes, you’ve heard me talk about it during the section on Decision Analysis and Resolution (sometimes I call it “Dalton’s 3Ds,” but that would make it FOUR D’s, and that’s way too much overhead!).

Here they are:

Deliberate: Applying a deliberate step-by-step approach that leverages proven criteria, which involves a limited set of the right stakeholders, and follows a useful, fact-based series of steps would have stopped the momentum of the touch-screen cold in its tracks.  This approach is sometimes called “a process.”

Durable: We need our decisions to stand the test of time, and to last beyond the next great thing, or perhaps just the next new manager.  Making a decision durable not only requires that a deliberate process be followed, but also that consideration is given to scaleability, change (including reorganization, acquisitions, or unforseen changes in business climate) and evolving preferences in technology or culture.  “Durable” doesn’t necessarily mean “solid,” “robust”, or “large.” More often than not, it means “flexible” and “adaptable.”  

Defendable.  Every decision we make has political consequences, as it reflects postitively or negatively on key stakeholders.  A successful choice can catapult a manager’s career into the boardroom, or relegate him just as easily to the mailroom.  Who we involve, how we communicate, and how we present the data to these stakeholders has an impact on whether it will be accepted, supported and implemented for the long term.  And it will also help control (or at least identify) those who would hide in the weeds waiting to pounce the minute they smell an opportunity to do so.

Start with the identification of a small number of key moments in time where important decisions need to be made – the kind of decisions that must be both durable and defendable, and then follow a deliberate path from selection, to analysis, and then on to resolution.

These could be some of the most important decisions of your career – you might even call them “a-dar-able moments.”

© Copyright 2014: Process Assessment, Consulting & Training and Broadsword Solutions
“Just the FAQs” is written/edited by Jeff Dalton  and Pat O’Toole.  Please contact the authors at pact.otoole@att.net and jeff@broadswordsolutions.com to suggest enhancements to their answers, or to provide an alternative response to the question posed.  New questions are also welcomed!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

What’s the SECRET to "passing" a CMMI Appraisal (or any other audit)?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser! What’s the secret to passing a CMMI Appraisal? ~ software and engineering professionals everywhere I go

Dear Readers,

As I travel around the country and planet helping people receive the value that frameworks like CMMI and Scrum are intended to provide – higher quality products, faster delivery, and predictable, repeatable results – I invariably encounter someone who pulls me aside and whispers, “Hey, CMMI Appraiser! What’s the secret to passing a CMMI Appraisal?”



These good people have correctly surmised that we Lead Appraisers have a lot of secrets. There are some things we are not supposed to tell you about how to pass a CMMI appraisal. But I’m going to break ranks and share some of those secrets right here in today’s blog post – as long as you promise not to tell anybody else.

Got it? This is just between us – you, me and thousands of monthly readers of Ask the CMMI Appraiser. So mum’s the word!

Why do I want to share these trade secrets? Because I’m on a mission to change the perception in the market about the CMMI.

By the way, speaking of perceptions, when they created CMMI, nobody ever expected it to turn into a certification type of event. So-called “CMMI certification” was never the goal. CMMI was always intended to be about performance improvement.

I say this as a precursor to the first secret of passing an appraisal: Don’t follow the CMMI!

And here’s the second secret: Don’t be compliant with CMMI!

In my opinion, these are the two hugest problems in the CMMI community. People think they have to follow CMMI and be compliant with it. So let’s get those problems out of the way immediately. CMMI is not a rule book to be followed. It’s also not a compliance model. CMMI is not ISO.

So what is the CMMI? CMMI is a process model. It’s also a behavioral model. A good way to think of it is as a massive checklist. CMMI gives us a checklist of 356 things that great companies do. Your challenge, as you go about adopting the Model, is to figure out how to get the most value out of this great checklist.

That’s the next big secret: To be successful in your CMMI adoption, ask “the CMMI Questions.”

What are the CMMI questions? These are the questions you should be able to answer for every single thing you do on your agile team. They are based on practices in the CMMI.

For example, there is a CMMI practice that says, “Estimate the scope of the project.” There’s a right way and a wrong way to approach that practice.

The wrong way to respond: “OK, we could do that. We could pick some estimating method and do it just because the Model says we have to.”

Contrast that with the RIGHT way to respond: “How are we going to estimate the size? Let’s collaborate on how we are going to do that.”

Every single agile ceremony can be strengthened by going through the CMMI and asking the CMMI questions. And the cool thing is, the CMMI lays it all out for us. All we have to do is ask the CMMI questions:

What expectations are we going to set? Who is involved in that? When are they involved? What are the tools we are going to use? How are we going to train people? Where are we going to put all this stuff? What stakeholders are involved? How are we going to know if the process is working? How are we going to know if people are doing what we want them to do? How does management know that it’s even working?

Those 10 CMMI questions come directly from the 10 Generic Practices in Maturity Level 2 of the CMMI. They are the 10 characteristics of a good process.

See what’s happening here? When we form them as questions, instead of strictly following the CMMI language from the book, we avoid the risk of driving the wrong behaviors.

For example, the CMMI language says, “Establish an organizational policy.” What do people do when they read that? The wrong (but all too common) way to respond is to go off and create a book with 18 pages in it and a policy on each. Make everybody sign it. Then put it on a shelf that nobody looks at.

That’s a complete waste of time. Better to ask the CMMI questions: “What am I supposed to do? What do you want me to do?”

Here’s another example. The second Generic Practice is “Plan the process.” Sounds intimidating! My CMMI question is, “What’s the plan here, team? What are we doing?”

That’s all these CMMI practices are about. They can be summed up in just five CMMI questions:
  • What are we doing?
  • When are we doing it?
  • Why are we doing it?
  • Who is responsible for doing it?
  • What do we need to do it?
The biggest problem I see with agile projects is when these questions are unasked, and thus, unanswered . Everybody thinks they know how to do the work, and everybody’s thinking something different. But if you know the secret to success – asking the CMMI questions – you’ll be on the path to greatness. Passing a CMMI Appraisal and achieving a Maturity Level will be natural byproducts. That’s the secret truth.

Now promise me you won’t tell ANYONE!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation , software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

To download eBooks about CMMI, visit Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.



Monday, December 15, 2014

What’s the ONE THING we should do to improve organizational performance?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – all we want for Christmas is peace in our software organization! Tell us the one thing we should do to fix all the performance issues we’re having. ~ Dianne M.

Hey, Dianne, Merry Christmas! You know, people attempting to improve organizational performance often ask me this. They are dealing with a whole host of issues – late projects, unpredictable results, lessons not learned, mistrust and miscommunication. All these problems, and yet they only want ONE THING to solve them all!

But I'm cool with that, because it really does come down to one thing you should do.



Of course, there are many things you CAN do. There are hundreds of things within process models, frameworks, systems and architectures. The CMMI literally gives us 356 things you can do. Agile and Scrum give us many things to do. ISO gives us many things to do.

But you asked what you SHOULD do. And I believe the one thing you should do to improve performance is this:

Address organizational values. 

“Values,” you say? “You mean those words stuck to the wall in the lobby that nobody looks at?”

No, I mean the values that are clearly defined and are compatible with the way your company does business.

Values come from upper management, usually. They are set as part of the strategic vision of the organization, and, for a company to be as great as it can be, they should trace down directly to the behaviors of the most junior person in the organization.

So if you see companies that have super cultures – high morale, high performance, everybody is on the same page – you’ll find that the values of that organization are clearly defined and are compatible with the rest of the work.

How do these companies do it?

Several things are important in having a great culture. Leadership, your expertise, your people. Also your business processes, the way you do your work, every day. As Lead Appraiser, I have had the opportunity to study many companies that are great and many more that are good, and I can tell you one constant: They do their work in a predictable, consistent way.

What happens when a company’s values become disconnected from the way people do their work? It leads to bad decisions, strained customer relationships, and poor quality. When the company’s values are inconsistent with the work that is being done, you see low morale. You see chaos and lack of productivity. Unfortunately, this is what’s happening in the agile community today.

Here’s an example. If you are an agile team, and one of your values is to “incrementally deal with issues and risk,” you might select a method such as Scrum and use a technique like Daily Stand-up. But if you are operating in a Waterfall company, this value would be a problem. The two are inconsistent and incongruous. People wouldn’t know HOW to act, and chaos would ensue.

To be useful, Values must guide behavior.

At Broadsword, we call this “making values operational.” We use a “values-based architecture” that links Values, Frameworks, and Techniques. Our goal is to trace a direct link between the company’s values and how work gets done.

We have nine core values that we have “operationalized.” Each value guides our behavior and can be traced to how we do our work. Our values range from being “creative problem solvers focused on our clients” to being “fun and hassle free to work with.”

We think our Values reflect who we are as a company. Values have an impact on customers, on employees, and on the way products are developed and code is written. If you want to be the best company you can be, make sure your values are clearly defined and aligned with your way the work gets done.

It’s the ONE THING you should do to address performance issues.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec! 

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation , software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

To download eBooks about CMMI, visit Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Is CMMI certification a “necessary evil”?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – To compete for bigger contracts, we need to achieve a CMMI Maturity Level, which we see as a necessary evil because we are an agile shop, and I am clear that I don’t want CMMI dictating to us that we do various things. What’s the painless way to get a CMMI certification? ~ Dale W.

Hey, Dale, quick note for clarification: The commonly used phrase “CMMI certification” is a misnomer. Upon a successful CMMI appraisal, you’ll achieve a Maturity Level, such as ML2 or ML3. But the real value of the CMMI is that it helps us learn about the way we work, so that we can get better. With learning as your goal, you’ll stay on the path to greatness, and achieving Maturity Rating will be just one byproduct of your journey. 

So here's my question for you: How can we call ourselves great if we see performance innovation as a “necessary evil”?


Now, there is nothing wrong with being interested in capitalizing on the marketing value of achieving a CMMI rating – and there’s nothing unnatural about wanting to avoid pain – but I’m concerned that you are in danger of missing all the value that the Model promises.

You say you don’t want CMMI “dictating” to you? No problem. CMMI doesn’t do dictation. Here’s what the Model does do: CMMI helps you demonstrate how great you are. That’s the reason large corporations and government customers want you to have the CMMI rating in the first place: It allows them to understand how you know you’re good at solving their problems.

So the CMMI is a “necessary evil”? Does that mean agile project are full of rainbows, unicorns, goodness and light? Well, I don’t dispute that the agile community has got great ideas, but Purism is dangerous and damaging in any form. Whether you are a Tea Partier or an anarchist, Puritanism is dangerous because it chokes off the flowering of new thought. It eliminates the possibility that new, better ideas are out there. Isn't that kind of an agile "anti-pattern" in itself?

There has always been this sort of antagonistic relationship between the Agile and CMMI communities. So much so that that I co-wrote, along with several of my peers, a white paper called "CMMI or Agile? Why Not Embrace Both?" for the SEI. We examine why that perception is hurting the software community, and why the CMMI is an excellent fit for agile environments.  To this day, it remains the most downloaded white paper in the industry.

My advice, Dale, is to drop this us-versus-them mindset.  Embrace CMMI+Scrum as a tool to make your organization a great company. After all, every framework, including Scrum, has weaknesses, and you can use CMMI to make it even stronger.  

Rather than "necessary evil," you may come to see it as recommended greatness.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Do we need CMMI training?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, do we need CMMI training? ~ software and engineering professionals all over North America

Dear Readers,

If you’ve been following this CMMI Appraiser for a while, you know that, as the front man for the organizational process and performance improvement band called Broadsword, I do a lot of shows, all over the world. And just about everywhere I go, I get the same question from software and engineering professionals:

"Do we need CMMI training?"


The first thing I always recommend is to make sure you understand exactly what you are asking about. Let's start with the basics:

WHAT IS CMMI-DEV TRAINING?

The Introduction to CMMI for Development training course is a 3-day class that we teach in cities like San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York City. The class is recommended for software engineers, software developers, project managers, business analysts and line managers. It is an opportunity to learn how software process improvement works, and how to improve the performance of your software or engineering organization.

WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER CMMI TRAINING?

WHO IS REQUIRED TO TAKE CMMI TRAINING?

WHY ARE THESE CMMI CLASSES DIFFERENT?

Our classes are a little bit different from some of the other CMMI training classes, because we infuse agile concepts into our classes. For example, instead of some of the standard training exercises, we include:
  • How to play Planning Poker
  • How to use Fibonacci sequencing for your estimates
  • How to do agile program planning
  • How to perform retrospective
And many other hands-on things that you’ll want to learn to participate in today’s programs using Scrum, Kanban or other methods

WHERE TO TAKE A CLASS?

Our next two courses being presented on the following dates and locations:

INTRODUCTION TO CMMI TRAINING: LIVONIA, MI
February 11-13, 2015
Register for "Introduction to CMMI-DEV" in Livonia

INTRODUCTION TO CMMI TRAINING: COLORADO SPRINGS, CO
March 4-6, 2015
Register for "Introduction to CMMI-DEV" in Colorado Springs

We hope to see you in February or March!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Are we THERE yet? When will CMMI make us more productive and profitable?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, our application development firm has recently been acquired by a leading IT provider that has achieved CMMI ML3 in Boston. The new boss keeps touting CMMI as this tool that is there to help us be more productive and profitable. But so far our agile teams aren’t buying it, and I don’t know what to tell them. Would CMMI training help? ~ Samuel H.

Samuel, it sounds like your new boss has the right attitude about CMMI. The goal of any organization adopting the CMMI should be to drive performance improvement and behavioral change. So, yes, CMMI training would help. But there’s something that can help you even more, and that’s a comprehensive understanding of the Generic Practices (GPs) in the CMMI. Without the GPs guiding the transformation of the newly formed organization, it’s like driving blindfolded. You are far more likely to have a wreck than get where you want to go.


The good news is, the GPs take away the blinders. There are twelve GPs to guide you, and each is useful to you as you go about changing the culture of your organization without disrupting the business.

In this post, I’ll limit the discussion to five of them. Since you asked about CMMI training, let’s start with GP 2.5.

The CMMI anticipates that people performing or supporting the process need to be trained in order to be successful. That’s what the fifth Generic Practice (GP 2.5) guides us to do – Train People.

You’ll find, as you expand your understanding of the Model, that there are multiple interdependencies among the GPs, particularly with regard to training. For example, let’s say one of the changes you want to see is that your Project Managers are efficient at estimating and planning. Starting with the first Generic Practice (GP 2.1), which guides us to set expectations, you are encouraged to tell your Project Managers that you expect them to be efficient at estimating and planning, and that you will provide training on estimating and planning.

Here’s another example. The change you want to see is for your QA folks to run process and product quality assurance. The second Generic Practice (GP 2.2) guides us to plan, so, if you are going to plan for this change, you need to provide training for your QA folks on running process and product quality assurance.

The third Generic Practice (GP 2.3) guides us to provide resources. If you are going to provide resources for your BA teammates to trace requirements and run JAD workshops, you need to offer training for them on performing requirement traceability and running JAD workshops.

The fourth GP (GP 2.4) is about assigning responsibility. If you are going to assign responsibility to your engineers to perform peer reviews, you need to provide training for them to perform peer reviews.

Are you starting to see the light? Training is integral to success. But without a solid understanding of the GPs, you might not have a clue just how important training is. You might mistakenly think (as many companies do) that training is a costly overhead expense that does not fit into your tight budget. You might even assume (and we know what happens when we ASSUME!) that it’s OK to train your engineers by throwing them into the fire and asking them to learn on the job.

Is that how training currently happens at your company? Then it’s no wonder that you haven’t been more productive and profitable. When you train people by fire, you end up with burned out, frustrated engineers who are slow to accept change.

The CMMI guides you to take a better approach. CMMI training increases productivity early in the tenure of a person’s employment. Where it takes an average engineer about a year to get up to speed in terms of productivity with peers, training helps them get up to speed in a matter of weeks.

CMMI training also reduces the cost of your people’s time, eliminating their need to reinvent the wheel and perform rework.

Let’s recap. CMMI training saves money, time and speeds your overall performance improvement efforts. These outcomes ought to help them buy into the program, wouldn’t you say?

There are many CMMI training courses available in the marketplace. I always encourage folks to look for a class that offers real life examples, lessons and proven techniques, so that your team can take away – and retain – valuable information to be used on the job, immediately.

If that's what you're looking for, here's a class that may be perfect for you:  I am conducting Introduction to CMMI-DEV training on Wednesday, February 11 through Friday, February 13, 2015 in at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan,

Click here to register for Introduction to CMMI-DEV training.

Also, you may want to check out the training courses offered by the CMMI Institute.

Good luck!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

“Go agile”? What's going on?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – Customers are asking us to go agile in 2015. They don't seem to realize we are already an agile shop.  What's going on? ~ Isaac B.

Hey, Isaac,

I see this happening more and more. Agile has become so popular that large scale adopters are exerting pressure on their suppliers to “go agile” – even before they fully understand what they are asking for. In my opinion, the best approach is one we’ve coined “Agile Resiliency,” which uses the architectural rigor of CMMI to strengthen agile. Strengthening agile will help us when our customers, who are decidedly not agile, start pushing us around and telling us we need to behave more like they do.


Why are customers pushing us around?

We have an old saying in the automotive industry, where I’ve been working for 30 years: “Suppliers don’t change General Motors, General Motors changes suppliers.” The same problem happens when working with other large organizations that have made the strategic decision to start running their projects using agile methods. As a supplier, you can have all the best intentions and the right way of going about things, but these large new adopters have tremendous weight and momentum behind what they are doing, and you will eventually get changed. Not because they don’t want to be agile, but because they are NOT agile.

What can we do about it?

One thing we can do is get informed. If you can make it to the Washington, DC area on Tuesday, December 9th, at 6:30PM, I am giving a LIVE presentation that will help you.  The talk, “Agile Resiliency: How CMMI Will Make Agile Thrive and Survive,” is hosted by the Agile Leadership Network of the Washington, DC metro area.

Click HERE to register:


Attendees are sure to learn a lot of useful information to put in practice right away. Over the course of two hours, I will show you how integrating the architectural strengths of the CMMI with your agile approach can help you make agile resilient enough to resist the pressure to change – and even scale and thrive.

Join us and our hosts on December 9th.


Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

SPaMCast Question #12: Is agile dead?

Jeff, is agile is dead? I’ve heard you say that agile is dying because it lacks resilience. Therefore, would you say that the combination of agile and CMMI constitutes sort of a rebirth? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

[NOTE: Over the past several weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.] 

Tom,

Yes, that's what I believe. I believe that without integrating the architectural strengths of the CMMI with your agile approach, agile will never be resilient enough to resist the pressure to change … and it will die a cruel death.


As such, I believe that using CMMI to strengthen agile is really the only way for agile to experience a rebirth. But organizationally, something is preventing that from happening today. For one thing, you have senior executives driving CMMI and project teams driving agile. That’s an inversion from what we really need. It should be the other way around. We need more senior executives to adopt agile values and apply them to their CMMI adoption. And we need more project teams to harness the architectural strengths of CMMI to add rigor to their agile approach. Only then will we have a meeting of the minds.

But once that happens, once we can combine these two things together, not only will we flip this inversion, but we will be able to strengthen agile. Strengthening agile will help us when our customers, who are decidedly not agile, start pushing us around and telling us we need to behave more like they do. We’ll have some strength to defend our approach to them. We’ll have data to take back to them as proof that agile really works. Then we can take our own advice and apply Agile Resiliency to our entire company.

That’s right – our entire company, not just software engineering. For example, in terms of marketing and sales, I always tell my clients that they should lead with their methodology. That is, your company “Way,” or the Way your work gets done. Having a well defined Way helps you improve all areas of the business, and reach your goals faster. And if your Way includes having Agile Resiliency, so much the better.

I have found that clients often struggle with this at first. But then I show them how logical it is. For example, if you consider your company to be a company with great agility -- and, thanks to Agile Resiliency, you have data to prove that – you will be able to show that your agility really improves performance and puts you at the top tier of your competitors. I don’t know about you, Tom, but if I'm a marketing executive, I'm leading with that.

So that’s a powerful, powerful message. But we’re not going to get it with either CMMI or agile alone. We can get it by combining them together.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Agile Resiliency concept is invited to attend our live presentation of “Agile Resiliency: How CMMI Will Make Agile Thrive and Survive.” The event takes place on in Vienna, Virginia on Tuesday, December 9th, at 6:30PM, and is hosted by the Agile Leadership Network of Washington, DC.


Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Thanksgiving Cornucopia, CMMI-Style

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the spirit of the season, this CMMI Appraiser has so much to be thankful for, and it all starts with YOU! Your focus on using the CMMI to pursue organizational greatness has helped transform the industry and raise the standard of excellence for everyone. Thank you!

This year and every year, I am especially grateful for all of those engineering and software professionals who have taken on the challenge of using CMMI to improve performance in their organizations. Thank you for:

  • Understanding that the CMMI is a journey, not a destination;
  • Staying focused on continually learning to make your company better;
  • Setting the right goals and objectives in your organization;
  • Asking the right questions;
  • Using the CMMI to put your company on the path to greatness.

It's all about you!  Without your effort to learn as much as you can about being a great company, those of us who are passionate about organizational performance improvement and engineering strategies wouldn’t have the chance to help organizations like yours use the CMMI to get even better at what you are ALREADY doing.

That’s why we’ve made it our holiday tradition to share our best ideas with you. We want you to continue learning to be a great company, using the CMMI as your guide.

So here you go! Just for you, please accept this veritable cornucopia of links. Click to open up an abundance of content that we hope you’ll find useful and valuable for the long holiday weekend, and beyond:
  • Our popular article, "CMMI vs. Scrum? NO! CMMI + Scrum!" Originally published in the prestigious Cutter IT Journal, the article is designed to help you learn to maximize your investment in agile and the CMMI.
  • Our entertaining CMMI-TV channel on YouTube. CMMI-TV is a place where we can add value to the engineering and software development community by offering advice on engineering strategy, performance innovation and software process improvement.
  • Our informative CMMI and agile eBooks. The fastest way to get up to speed on the basics of CMMI, agile, and software process improvement, our easily digestible eBooks are available from $0 to 99 cents on Amazon.

Whether you are traveling or staying local this holiday season, we hope you enjoy abundant health, happiness -- and useful insights on being the kind of organization you’ve always wanted to be.

From our family to yours,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Agile Resiliency is here! Sign up for the presentation in DC

Hey, everybody!

Still trying to do more with agile? Good news – our popular “Agile Resiliency” presentation is back and better than ever!

Registration is now open for our interactive presentation of "Agile Resiliency: Scaling Agile So That It Thrives & Survives" on Tuesday, December 9th, at 6:30 PM, in the Washington, DC metro area.

The event, hosted by the Agile Leadership Network of Washington, DC, promises to be a lot of practical information, and a lot of fun.

Click HERE to sign up!



Why Agile Resiliency?

One of the biggest issues for engineering and software professionals today is how to make agile scale despite opposition – or, to coin a phrase, how to create “agile resilience.” The presentation offers a new way of thinking about scaling agile by taking a look at your agile methodology through the perspective of the “Agile Resilience Architecture,” which keeps you focused on what's most important to your business and your process, and ultimately, your product.

In this practical, interactive, fast-paced presentation, you’ll learn how to integrate the architectural strengths of the CMMI with your agile approach to bring about the transformation of the culture of your company. You’ll come away with strategies, tips and insights for improving your organization and making your agile methodology scalable.

Space is limited ... sign up now!

Register for the Presentation.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Need to Know EVERYTHING about CMMI? Sign up for our FREE Webinar!

Dear Readers,

Do you need to know EVERYTHING about CMMI? Then have we got a deal for you! Our popular, highly informative Webinar, “CMMI: Everything You NEED to Know” is back and better than ever!  And best of all ... it's FREEEEEEEEE!

Registration is now open for our presentation of CMMI: Everything You NEED to Know!” on November 20, 2014, from noon-2PM EST.



Click HERE to register for the “CMMI: Everything You NEED to Know!” Webinar (Thursday, November 20th @12pm EST)

Why CMMI?

Some engineering and software professionals – and even some of my fellow CMMI Lead Appraisers – operate as though they have not heard the news that CMMI is 100% about solving business problems. They still are laboring under the misconception that the CMMI is this heavy, command and control, document-centric cauldron of hard, dreary work and pure nonsense that tells you how to do your job. CMMI has none of that.

On this Webinar, you’ll learn that the CMMI doesn’t tell you HOW to do anything. It doesn’t “require” anything. Here’s what the CMMI is and does:

  • The CMMI is a tool to help solve business problems
  • The CMMI helps you change and improve requirements churn and volatility, so that you can spend less time and money on requirements
  • The CMMI helps you be on-time and on-budget
  • The CMMI helps you motivate your staff, and make them better at what they do
  • The CMMI helps you understand and deal with risk, before it hurts you
  • The CMMI helps you avoid having too many meetings, unhappy customers and unpredictable projects
And the CMMI can do this whether you choose agile, Waterfall, and any other set of methods. So the question is not “why CMMI” … it’s: “Why not?”

Ah, but there is so much more to learn about CMMI.  Space is limited ... sign up now!

Register for the FREE CMMI Webinar.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SPaMCast Question 11: What two things should engineers do to make agile more resilient?

Jeff, if you could wave a magic wand and cause people to do two things to make agile more resilient, what would those two things be and why? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

[NOTE: Over the past several weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.

Tom, if I could wave a magic wand and cause people to do two things that would make agile more resilient, I’d have them focus more clearly on their values and their mental model for agile. If they were able to change their focus in these two important ways, they’d find that the path to greatness is not an illusion!


Let’s break down these how these two "magic tricks" can transform any organization into a great organization.

First, the values. I would encourage C-level executives and senior management to focus whole-heartedly on the values of your company. I mean real values, not just token values stamped out in sheet metal and attached to the conference room wall that no one ever looks at. The real values that inform the way you do what you do.

For example, if your aspiration is to be a company with great agility, focus on agile values throughout your organization. This means everywhere, not just engineering. It means purchasing - especially purchasing! It means marketing and sales, operations and manufacturing. To be a company with great agility, you need to focus on agile values, and make sure everyone in the organization is clear on what is expected of them as it pertains to those values. They would need to change their focus to live and breathe their values. That would be my first magic trick.

The second would be to help people understand, through training and coaching, how to adopt a mental model around these agile values. The mental model would give them a construct for using tools like CMMI and ISO in the way that they were intended to be used, so that we can improve and get better and better. This really is the trick to making our company more successful. It’s the trick to making our careers more successful, as well. When people really understand how to create and maintain a mental model for continuous improvement, it's a win-win for everybody.

But here's the real magic, Tom: You don’t need a wand to make it happen! You need a strong desire to improve on what you’re already doing. If I woke up tomorrow and there was no magic wand, I'd do the same thing I always do. I'd make sure our values were defined, understood and embraced throughout the organization. And I'd create a mental model for adopting a flexible, agile approach to the CMMI that fits within my company's particular situation.

This is sometimes easier said than done, so if anyone following this interview is interested in learning more about applying the lessons of CMMI and agile to be a great company, they are certainly invited to participate in our upcoming Webinar: “Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives.” The Webinar is happening on November 6, 2014 from 12-1PM EST.

Click here to register for the Webinar.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How do we strike a balance between agile and CMMI training?

CMMI Appraiser, I manage the software division of an ML3 engineering firm in Washington, DC. About a year after going agile, we are dealing with issues of low morale, low productivity and, frankly, a lot of chaos. Our Scrum team is asking for CMMI training, but I’m concerned about too much training, too much oversight and too much overhead. How do we strike a balance? ~ Charles K. 

Charles, great question. Balancing the rigors of CMMI and the flexibility of agile does include a training component, and I’ll talk more about that below. But from the little bit you’ve said about your company culture, I don’t think you start with CMMI training. To strike a balance, start at a higher level. Start with your values.


Why values? One thing you may not realize, Charles: Scrum and CMMI are more akin to organizational behavior models than process models. They can help drive people’s behavior in alignment with your values. This means, if you want to be the best company you can possibly be, you need to be clear on your values.

Just look around if you need proof. Wherever you see low morale, low productivity and a lot of chaos, there is a mismatch between the corporate values and the work the team is trying to perform.

Here’s how it often goes down. Someone in management sends out an email. They make a lot of requests that are out of alignment with what the Scrum teams are trying to do. For instance, they might ask people to speed up, or do a big plan up front, or do other things that a pure agile team is not comfortable with.

They say, “I thought you wanted us to be agile!”

That's just it. You DO want them to be agile. There are tremendous advantages to applying agile methods to continuous improvement. This approach allows you to be rapid, flexible, and able to meet the needs of the customers quicker than your competition might be able to. If management REALLY bought into these agile values, and REALLY cared about seeing them reflected in everyone’s behavior, this would not be an issue.

So here’s the question, Charles: Do you really care?

Clearly so, or you wouldn’t have reached out for help.

Then shouldn’t you be interested in learning as much about adopting agile and CMMI as you possibly can?

Which brings us to training. Your team wants it - go for it! There are many different CMMI training courses that are related to CMMI, Scrum, or general process improvement. You have a lot of options.

The CMMI training class that I am conducting, "Introduction to CMMI-DEV v1.3," on February 11-13, 2015 in Livonia, Michigan is designed with organizations like yours in mind. It helps CMMI-focused companies that are looking for guidance on being lighter and more flexible, as well as agile teams that are still seeking the kind of results they’ve been hoping for. We use real life examples, lessons and proven techniques. Class participants take away – and retain – valuable information they can use on the job, immediately.

That’s the best way to strike a balance, in my opinion, Charles. Set your values, sign up for a class, and learn how to align the team’s behavior with the values. That way, instead of worrying about what they're supposed to do, your folks will just have fun DOING IT! Or, as one old developer put it, “Can't we just make stuff?”

Hope to see you in February.  Click here to sign up for the Intro to CMMI-DEV training class.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Friday, October 24, 2014

SPaMCast Question #10: What’s the Difference between Asking “CMMI Questions” and Being “CMMI Compliant”?

Jeff, another of the concepts that you talk about in your Agile Resiliency presentations is that there's a difference between being "compliant" and asking "who-what-why" CMMI questions. I like the idea, but I struggle with it.  What's the difference between asking the questions and being compliant? ~ Tom Cagely, SPaMCast 

[NOTE: Over the past several weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.] 

Tom, thank you for picking up on this distinction. It’s an important one. The difference between asking “CMMI questions” and being compliant has to do with the point in time that you ask the question. Asking at the wrong time can lead to painful face-palm moments.


So many of the folks I see out in the industry have zero defined processes, or at least they don't have them fleshed out enough to be able to describe them. So they hire a so-called CMMI consultant who tells them to open the CMMI book and walk through the practices. They create flow diagrams based on the practices. And they say, “Okay. Here's our project planning process. It includes estimating, and it includes reviewing.” They use the CMMI as the source of their process descriptions, as a source document.

That’s a mistake. The CMMI is not a source document. That wasn’t what it was intended for. It wasn't intended for you to create process. It was intended for you to take what you already do, and make it better.

This really hit home for me the first time I walked into a self-described agile organization and saw them using all Waterfall tools. I saw work breakdown structures, weekly status meetings and all of the trappings of a typical Waterfall project that you expect to see.

I said, “You told me you were agile. Why are you doing all these things?”

They replied, “Well, we wrote a process based on what the CMMI told us to write.”

This was a face-palm moment. I said, “Oh my gosh! People don't really understand what this thing is. They actually believe adopting a performance innovation model like CMMI has something to do with compliance!”

The truth is, CMMI doesn’t tell you to do anything. CMMI is not about compliance. It’s not about documents. Adopting the CMMI is 100% about solving business problems and, the more we use it, the more we work with companies that are using the CMMI, the more we realize that CMMI is a Model that's about how great companies perform.

Too many so-called CMMI Consultants don't get this, especially those in Washington, DC. They think CMMI is about passing an audit. They see no value in providing resources and assuring that actions are planned for. They are out there saying, “You must have flow diagrams and process descriptions that mirror this Model.”

Oh really? The truth is, the good folks at SEI and the CMMI Institute who oversee the Model never meant for that to happen. This compliance mindset is the result of ambitious consultants and ambitious companies trying to get a CMMI Maturity Rating by reverse engineering the Model, and then forcing their people to behave in that manner.

How useful is that? Not very.

Now, good CMMI consultants – those who understand that CMMI is 100% about solving business problems – encourage companies to turn that around. We say, “Don't use CMMI as a compliance model. Use it as a way to ask questions about the way you already work.”

For instance, let’s say we are an agile organization and we’re using Daily Standups. Good. We’ve got our Daily Standup, and we’re meeting every week. We’re talking about blocking; we’re talking about yesterday’s weather; we’re talking about all that kind of good stuff. Now, let’s crack open the CMMI book and walk through the practices and ask questions, such as:

“How are we estimating how big this project is?”

The answer might be, “Well, we’ve got a product backlog and we’ve got Epics to find in story points and we've got that broken down into Sprints.”

If that’s your answer, I will say, “Hey guys, you nailed it! That's exactly right. That's exactly what you should be doing, and there’s nothing I can do improve it.”

So you keep paging through the CMMI book, and you get to the practice about risk management. The CMMI question to ask is as follows:

“So tell me, how are we managing risks at our Daily Standup?”

Now, you might find that the team looks around and says, “Ha! You know what? We're really not talking about risks, are we? We better correct that. Let’s make a section of whiteboard for our high and low and medium risks, just so we can keep track of how they’re going. And, here's our information radiator for that. And here’s how we’re doing this.”

Again, you nailed it! You successfully answered the question about risk management.

As you can see, Tom, CMMI questions are very effective. As a Lead Appraiser, my approach is to take what folks are already doing, and walk them through the practices, asking questions for every single one of them.

The really cool thing about this approach is, engineers are smart people, so they know all the answers! They know what they need to do to fix deficiencies. This would not be possible if we went about things using the compliance mentality. All of these super smart engineers would be sitting around, scratching their heads for weeks, wondering what the heck the practices mean, what are the sub-practices and what are the documents? At the end, they would wind up with four hundred documents, instead of the right amount of work products.

Asking CMMI questions, rather than focusing on being compliant, is a completely different mental model. Using CMMI questions is an organizational innovation and engineering strategy that drives completely different behavior. So whether your goals are to successfully deliver software, achieve a CMMI Maturity Level, use the CMMI as a strategic weapon to help you attract and retain new customers, or get on the path to becoming a great company, asking CMMI questions can help you get there. Focusing on being compliant can only lead to face-palm moments.

For those who are interested in learning more about applying the lessons of CMMI and agile to be a great company, we invite you to participate in our upcoming Webinar: “Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives” on November 6, 2014 from 12-1PM EST.

Click here to register for the webinar.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don't Miss This Webinar! “CMMI – Everything You NEED to Know!”

Dear Readers,

If you are an executive, engineer and/or business professional who needs to learn everything about the CMMI so you can create an environment in which your organization can manage its uniqueness in a structured way … wow … do we have a Webinar for you!

Join us for “CMMI - Everything You Need to Know” on Thursday, November 20, 2014 from noon to 2PM EST.



The action-packed Webinar, hosted by Broadsword, provides strategies, tips and practical, real-world solutions to today’s business problems using the leading framework for engineering performance improvement, the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI).  And best of all, the information is absolutely FREE!

Are you new to CMMI? Welcome aboard! This fast-paced, in-depth Webinar shows you how to use CMMI to transform the culture of your company, so that you can say goodbye to chaos, “process debt” and unpredictable outcomes. You’ll learn to improve and change the way your company behaves, so that you build better products, win new business and retain the customers you have.

Have you been working with CMMI for a while? That’s great! You’ll still want to check out the Webinar, where you are bound to hear some ideas that you haven't considered before, that will help you get better at what you are ALREADY doing.

Your speaker is Jeff Dalton of "Ask the CMMI Appraiser." Jeff is a Certified Lead Appraiser and CMMI Instructor. He has conducted hundreds of CMMI Appraisals and taught thousands of students in his CMMI Training classes. He is a process innovation thought-leader and CMMI Consultant who has been a guest speaker at conferences and workshops around the world.

Don't miss this informative event! Register here.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CMMI Institute announces Global Conference Series for 2015!


Today, we are pleased to announce the CMMI Institute Global Conference Series for 2014-2015 in cities that span the globe.

The CMMI Institute Global Conference Series connects organizations and individuals committed to building capability and elevating performance with the best practices, case studies, and shared learning that will equip them to face challenges and reach their goals. Check out the individual events or explore the whole series at the CMMI Institute Global Conference Series website, then mark your calendar and book your room. 

Mark your calendars for these exciting events: 
Interested in being a presenter at one of the CMMI Institute conferences?

If you have a case study that highlights how you improved your organizational capability and performance, we want to hear about your experience.  Submit by visiting the Call for Participation on the conference website, fill out the form and select the conference you plan to attend.

Register early for the Global Congress and save 10%!

CMMI Institute email subscribers can access a special 10% discount on the Early Bird registration rate for the CMMI Institute Global Congress.

Register by 30 November 2014 with the promotional code "EmailSpecial" to unlock the SUPER Early Bird rate. Register Now and Save>

Bookmark http://CMMIConferences.com to keep up with all the news about the CMMI Institute Global Conference Series.


10-11 December 2014
Shenzhen, China
JW Marriott Hotel

Presented in partnership with  ZenithUS and with support from the City Government of Shenzhen


26 - 27 March 2015 
London, England
Location TBA

Presented in partnership with UNICOM.   Event formerly known as SEPG Europe.


12 - 13 May 2015
Seattle, USA
The Westin Seattle Hotel

Event formerly known as SEPG North America


Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead AppraiserCertified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.