Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Could you share a format for waiver purposes?

Dear Appraiser:

I was looking for a format that would help when waiver situations arise in Tailoring (IPM) and Training (OT).

By waiver, I’ll make the assumption you’re referring to a waiver in the execution of part of the process or the completion of a work product.

So let me stir up the dust and say that the entire premise of “waiver” as part of a process architecture just doesn’t compute for me. Why? Let’s start with the CMMI itself – the IPM PA guides us to “Establish the Project’s Defined Process” based on tailoring of the defined process. This tailoring has guidelines. It further guides us on the maintenance of that tailored process throughout the life of the project.

In other words, we plan for, and expect, variability in the process and work products.

Just based on this alone, doesn’t the CMMI imply that a “waiver” is not the exception, but merely the normal course of business – i.e.; we never follow the standard process “as is” but must tailor it for our particular situation? This by definition isn’t a waiver (unless you’re going to grant a waiver to not tailor the process – and why do that?) This doesn’t mean, by the way, that just anything can be tailored any way we want. There must be guidelines and process wrapped around the tailoring that guide us.

Putting aside the CMMI for a moment, how about the real-world SW Engineering environment? The real-world intrudes forcefully on our plans to run our neatly designed process “assembly line” and forces us to tailor our process for each unique situation – to not do so would make it virtually impossible to be successful. Deming would roll over in his grave if we tried to foolishly insist that the process was so linear that we didn’t need to tailor it. In his “Theory of Profound Knowledge” he clearly expresses his belief that engineering is empirical by nature so to behave as if it’s linear is just counterproductive.

So, given that basic premise, your process must be designed to allow (and manage) tailoring as the norm, not the exception. It is the default position and, if designed well, will result in a lighter, more management process that still embodies the spirit of the CMMI. This is an important philosophical difference that will affect your overall process architecture, PPQA, CM, PP, and oversight processes.

Of course, some work products just can’t be tailored out (think workplan or requirements). Since that’s the case, no waiver is ever required for those either.

What does this mean in practical terms? A project’s collection of work products needs to be defined and committed to up-front, and that group should be reviewed and committed to as a package. This “additive” method, as opposed to the “subtractive” method that waivers represent, ensures that appropriate work products are not being “tailored out.” It also embodies a sense of empowerment for the project teams, eliminating a major hurdle when it comes to acceptance and adoption down the road.

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2 comments:

Thomas said...

Hi there

I fell upon this post while searching for information on process waivers and the CMMI model.

I totally agree with the fact that the CMMI model covers the possibility of tailoring processes in order to obtain the most appropriate project processes.

The difference I make between Process Tailoring and Waiving is that the first one allows us to reach the same goal by putting up practices that are different from the standard process. The waiver defines practices that will make us reach a different goal which is not compliant with a CMMI Goal.

What is your opinion on this?

I can provide examples if necessary

Best Regards

Jeff Dalton said...

Thomas,

I agree with your assessment of the term waiver.....I'm still not sold on the need for such a thing, but I understand your point.