Monday, August 29, 2011

Our people think an Appraisal is an audit and won't say anything!

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? 

A CMMI Appraisal is NOT an audit!  So many people believe this that I've started to speak on this subject at conferences.

If you look back to the original intent of the authors at the SEI, the CMMI was simply intended as a set of guidelines that describe how a "great company" behaves.  That's all!  It was never intended as an audit methodology (as if we need another one of those).

The problem dates back to the days when the DOD insisted that every supplier achieve a "level" of CMMI.  Some enterprising "consultants" then devised an evil scheme to reverse-engineer the CMMI model and convinced customers to create all of the documents in the "typical work products" section of the book, and then supported their own dastardly plan by "auditing" the presence of the work products (hey, PPQA is not too happy about this arrangement!).  

They publicly flogged those who "failed" and smirked and snickered their way through presentations and articles about how the company "failed" their special test (if they would only buy their "perfect project in bag" system . . . ). 

The SEI didn't do themselves any favors by churning out inexperienced Lead Appraisers at an alarming rate and teaching them to focus on evidence over common sense and behavior.

Thankfully that is starting to change.  The SEI has taken steps and so has the market. 

I tend to think that the CMMI is about behavior, not about evidence.  It's about creating a system to make your company better . . . and better . . . and better.  People always ask me at my CMMI Training classes: "Hey Jeff, when will this be over?" and I say "NEVER! Isn't that great!  We get to re-define our work environment until we make it right.  How cool is that?"

Some people say there are already great, and that they don't need no stinkin' model to make them better.  Just ask them "how do you know? We could be even greater!"

I gauge the success of my appraisals by how much I get people to talk to me.  They all file into the room, tight-lipped and nervous, and expect me to start in on "the script" from the other side of the table.  I usually sit next to them, put my pad away, and just pull on the rip cord.  "Tell me a story" I say.  Once they start talking, there's no stopping them!

If you like what you've read and you're looking for a Lead Appraiser, give us a call!

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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