Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Thanksgiving don't be a turkey - and avoid the stuffing!

Dear Readers,

This year, as Mrs. Appraiser and I head out east to join all of our brother, sister, and little appraisers, I'm reminded to give thanks for all that we have.

We live in a place where we have smart engineers, software developers, analysts, project managers, and testers all doing their best to create some of the best products in the world.  But this year do yourself a favor - and don't be a turkey!

Ever since I was a little appraiser I loved the white meat.  "Just some white meat" I would say as my dad carved out a "partially implemented" piece that was sized just for me.  Mom would insists on a little stuffing, vegetables, and cranberry sauce so that I could "satisfy the goal" of growing up healthy.

But I wanted to get to the next "level" and really just wanted the white meat.  "Just enough, not too much" I would always say.

As we all prepare to head out for the holiday, keep in mind the basics of "Just Enough" process:

- always err on the side of "too little" and not "too much" process.  Engineers will know what to do if there isn't a flowchart.  And they don't need to read the CMMI book either!

- keep it simple.  Engineers are smart, and they'll know what to do with a just a little help. They don't need step-by-step instructions, they need guidelines.  Even if you did provide them, you would probably get them wrong anyway.

- keep your documentation short, but consistent and easy to read.  Most people won't read it anyway.  Remember, it's not about "CMMI Certification" it's about getting better at what you already do well.

- limit the amount of time and scope you allow people to work on "the process" ("limited WIP") so that it is not possible to over-engineer the solution.  This creates "process debt."  And it's because if you let them, engineers will produce a process that is un-implementable.

- think of your process as a "product."  As a product, it will need resources, a plan, a design, and architecture, sponsorship, budget, and many other things to be successful.  A "process binder" is not a process system!  Once you get it done you can test is will a CMMI Appraisal.

- Consider banning the words "process" and "CMMI" from your vernacular.  Want another word?  Try "E-N-G-I-N-E-E-R-I-N-G."

I remind you of these things because MOST organizations miss them.  They get so focused on "CMMI Certification," getting a CMMI Level, or writing a CMMI Process they miss the point!  Don't be a turkey this year and get filled up with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and potatoes.  Just ask for the white meat.  It's healthy and low in fat.  Just like your process should be!

If you've taken my CMMI Training class then you've heard many of these things from me.  But if you're working with a CMMI Consultant that is not giving you the straight story, send me a note and I'll post a response.

Have a great holiday!

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.

Learn more about CMMI Appraisals at

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