Sunday, July 24, 2011

Who performs data collection and characterization on a SCAMPI Appraisal?

Dear Appraiser, 

A while back, we attended one of your CMMI trainings that dealt with determining our data collection strategy for a SCAMPI appraisal.  You basically said that it was up to us to collect and begin characterizing our own data.  However, we find this very time consuming and difficult.  Can you do a CMMI training about how we get someone to do the data collection for us?  ~ Tyree N.

Hey, Tyree,

I could, but I won’t. :).  I would never use my CMMI training sessions to teach you how to cheat yourself out of becoming a great, continually improving company.

I’d rather see you master the data collection process and make it your own.

This starts with understanding that a lot has changed since your last CMMI training.  For one thing, the new SCAMPI v1.3 release changes the options related to when the data will be collected.  The time of data collection is determined by what type of appraisal you are conducting, managed discovery, verification or discovery.   

Here is the break-down:

  1. Discovery
In the Discovery appraisal, the data is only collected when the Lead Appraiser arrives.  Discovery appraisals are the preferred method of Lead Appraisers who, in my opinion, need more CMMI training on the true purpose of data collection.  Discovery appraisals often seem to end in disaster. 

  1. Verification
In the Verification appraisal, you will collect the data, without the help of a Lead Appraiser, before the Lead Appraiser gets there.  Better,  but disaster can lurk for many reasons.

  1. Managed discovery
In the Managed discovery appraisal, you will collect the data, with guidance provided by the Lead Appraiser before I get there, and I will help you by facilitating discussions where you can learn new things of lasting value about yourselves as a company, and where you want to be.

Don’t be alarmed if this all sounds new.  I admit, this approach is not typical ... yet.  I've always conducted appraisals using the "managed discovery" approach - even though it was only recently introduced in SCAMPI v1.3.  

Companies are always surprised when I say to them, “OK, for the next month, you guys are going to collect and characterize some of the data.”
They say, “We’re going to score our own data?” 
And I say, “Yes, did you think I was going to do all of it for you?”

To be more exact, we're going to do a lot of it together.

The point is, Tyree, you’re supposed participate in it because it's about YOU!  This is about you and your company, and making your company better.  You are the one who needs to learn about it collect and analyze data.  I already know how.  Having me characterize your data alone doesn’t help you at all.

Level-seekers think the only reason to collect data is to get the artifacts to complete the appraisals.

Try to remember why you are doing this, guys.  There’s only one reason.  To make yourself better.

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

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Unknown said...

The data-collection phase and subsequent presentation to appraisers is also important because it is very ‘telling’ to an appraiser. This artifact collection process is a microcosm of your organization as a whole. A smoothly run, well-ordered, thoughtful data collection phase helps you with self-discovery; it helps appraisers with time management; it cuts down on appraiser frustration. As an appraiser, I want to see the organization’s artifacts presented in a well-ordered, logical format – no matter what it is (website, spreadsheets, etc). If the data has everything it needs more-or-less from a CMMI perspective, but is in a disordered tangle, it makes me wonder about the efficiency and processes of the underlying organization: If an organization can’t do their data-collection right, what hope is there for the multimillion dollar program they manage? If I heard through the grapevine that their data-collection process was a ‘hopeless nightmare’ this will give me pause.

An example: A person, (let’s call him ‘Jeff’) likes to build experimental ultra-light aircraft. Such aircraft must be certified by the FAA – an inspector will come to Jeff’s work site and inspect the plane for air-worthiness. This inspector most assuredly inspects the aircraft – but also looks at the workbenches and toolsets. Are they are in order? Are they a sloppy mess? The inspector is thinking: ‘If Jeff’s work area is a disaster, I’d better take another look at that plane.’

Well-run data-collection processes work in reverse! If you master and own your artifact collection process, could not such lessons and self-discovery teamwork be applied to your organization as a whole?

Managed discovery greatly helps with the data-collection process – you have an experienced appraiser to guide you through what later appraisers will focus on both at the macro and at the ‘nuance’ levels. Data collection is not easy. It is time consuming. Having a mentor guiding you is wise – you save money, embarrassment (!), time, effort, and anti-anxiety drugs.

Jeff Dalton said...

Nicely stated! And I love your "example!"

I often tell clients that if they really are "Level 3" then data collection is a breeze.

Jeff Dalton said...

oh, and by the way, that's EXACTLY what happens when the FAA guy comes to the shop.

He looks around, sees my labeled parts bins, the clear floor, tools all in place, and says "you're good!"

I once asked him why he doesn't micro-analyze my work, and he says that the "signs" all point to good workmanship. So the concept holds true across disciplines.

btw, I wouldn't ride in or build an ultralight! This is a real, 5 person aircraft.