Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to Prepare for an Appraisal - Guest Blogger!

Dear Readers,

While I'm on vacation this month we're lucky enough to have a guest blogger! Shawn Rapjack is a CMMI and Process Improvement professional with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).  Shawn was on several of the appraisal teams I have led at SAIC over the years and he "knows the ropes" better than most.

Take it awaaaaaaaaay!

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It’s almost time for the appraisal!  Auuuuughghg!  What do I do?

Preparation

Before your initial appraisal, you need to get these activities under your belt:

 - Organization of artifacts.  


You have collected your artifacts – now, they need to be neatly organized for appraisal review.  A variety of mechanisms can be used – spreadsheets, neatly organized document repositories, or websites. CMMI practices should be associated with your project’s implementation notes and applicable artifacts. You don’t want the appraisers hunting around trying to find artifacts – this is very frustrating.  Having artifacts neatly presented is indicative of your project!  How can you manage a multi-million dollar project if you can’t even organize your artifacts?

Selection of Lead Appraiser and team members


There is a lot to consider when you select team members, but don't underestimate how much it takes to coordinate who will comprise the appraisal team and their availability.  We've worked with Broadsword (Jeff Dalton) on thirteen of our appraisals, as well as some others over they years.

-  If the appraisal team is not from your local office travel arrangements will need to be made.

Meeting space and food will need to be provided. There's nothing worse than a hungry, grumpy appraisal team!  It is ideal if there is a large conference room with several break-away rooms.  This will allow for appraisal team group discussions and mini-team work.  Snacks are always welcome….

An appraisal roadmap will be created.   This plan details the schedules, goal and scope of the appraisal. It will be created in coordination with the Lead Appraiser.  The Lead Appraiser will also create a data collection plan, and Appraisal plan, and numerous other plans to support your appraisal.

Appraisal Time!

Its Appraisal week!  You should consider the following activities and lessons learned:

Create a presentation detailing the major highlights of each project.  The appraisers know nothing about your project – this will provide a good foundation and reference for them. 

Attend required meetings. Initially, the Lead Appraiser will discuss the appraisal’s goals and schedule.  After the appraisal’s conclusion and depending on its type, findings will be presented.  You will want everyone to attend these!

Be available for all interviews you are scheduled for.   Interviews are formal and may be with groups or individuals.  Appraisers will usually pose open-ended questions asking you to explain your understanding and implementation of your processes.  Appraisers are furiously taking notes, hoping to have several questions addressed by carefully-worded questions.  They may ask for elaborations.

Attitude.  Be respectful toward appraisers effort.  Appraisal team members are volunteering (sometimes on top of "real work") to help you out.

Provide resources the appraisal team asks for.  Appraisers may ask for further clarification of your processes or for additional artifacts.  

You don't need to know all of the answers!  If you know someone that does, please let the appraisal team know who they are.

Don't think of the appraisal as CMMI Certification.  There's a reason they don't call it "CMMI Certification."  It's more an opportunity to collaborate with professionals like yourselves to make your work environment better.  So have fun!

Good luck with your appraisal!

Shawn Rapjack is an SEPG lead and process professional with SAIC.  He is guest blogging while Jeff is on vacation.  

3 comments:

Michelle Canfield said...

Thanks for this advice, it's really helpful- especially the tip about food! :-D

One thing I'm pondering as we prepare for our first formal appraisal is this: we make medical devices and work in a regulated industry. So our employees are very attuned to the notion of an "audit" and all the nerve-wracking aspects of speaking to regulatory body auditors.

I sense that I need to loosen them up, divorce them from the rigid notion of an "audit", so they speak more openly and freely with a CMMI appraisers, in order to best demonstrate people's understanding of and engagement in our process improvement efforts. It seems like in an "audit", the best strategy is to say as little as possible, where in a CMMI appraisal, I want them to talk a lot! We really want to learn from the appraisal and get an honest assessment more than anything.

Any ideas on that, and have you been involved in appraisals of organizations who had this stuffy hang-up?

Michelle Canfield said...

Thanks for this advice, it's really helpful- especially the tip about food! :-D

One thing I'm pondering as we prepare for our first formal appraisal is this: we make medical devices and work in a regulated industry. So our employees are very attuned to the notion of an "audit" and all the nerve-wracking aspects of speaking to regulatory body auditors.

I sense that I need to loosen them up, divorce them from the rigid notion of an "audit", so they speak more openly and freely with a CMMI appraisers, in order to best demonstrate people's understanding of and engagement in our process improvement efforts. It seems like in an "audit", the best strategy is to say as little as possible, where in a CMMI appraisal, I want them to talk a lot! We really want to learn from the appraisal and get an honest assessment more than anything.

Any ideas on that, and have you been involved in appraisals of organizations who had this stuffy hang-up?

Jeff Dalton said...

Have I ever seen one? LOL! Have I ever not!

This was such a good comment I'm going to post a response on it's own . . . right now!