Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Should we be freezing our artifacts six months before our SCAMPI Appraisal?

The Contractor at my Government office who is responsible for building a new, complex IT system will be conducting a SCAMPI-B this fall in anticipation of an eventual SCAMPI-A the following year. 
The Contractor wants to "freeze" various process documents 6 months prior to the SCAMPI-B so that all process output artifacts are in sync with the process description artifacts used in the appraisal. 
Freezing "living" documents for 6 months seems a bit extreme to me, given that some of the documents are deficient in how thoroughly or accurately they describe existing process. Does this seem like a reasonable request? (Note: I'm fine with not changing the actual processes/procedures for 6 months. It's the idea that we won't try to improve the deficient description of those existing processes that concerns me. Particularly since the Contractor continues to bring on new staff, who need to rely on these documents).
I'm visualizing what "freezing the artifacts" might look like - sounds like an old batman episode!
Freezing artifacts is often one of the things we see from organizations that are trying hard to “pass” an appraisal, but perhaps don’t have the processes embedded in their culture (which is kind of the point, isn’t it?). 
It seems as if your contractor is overly risk-averse.  A SCAMPI-B is in itself a risk mitigation event, and to work so hard to reduce risk for this event seems counter-productive.  It’s supposed to uncover problems.
In your case it seems like the risk mitigation strategy they are deploying is in conflict with the very essence of continuous process improvement!  It’s one thing to freeze process – it’s another thing to freeze the outputs.
I usually recommend freezing everything starting with the SCAMPI A Readiness Review (about 60 days prior to the onsite of a SCAMPI A).  Anything earlier than that isn’t productive, in my opionion.

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