Monday, November 21, 2011

Our CMMI Appraiser says we have to change everything on our project! Could that be true?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, our CMMI appraiser says we have to modify everything about how our project operates to fit the CMMI.  This is not what we expected at all.  Is there a better way?  ~Jonathan



Yes, there is a better way.  Unfortunately for your CMMI appraiser, the better way might mean putting that CMMI appraiser on the next plane home!

There is no benefit to you in modifying how you run your project to fit a process model.  Use the process model to improve how YOU ARE ALREADY RUNNING IT! As I like to tell my CMMI training classes, if a process isn’t useful, it’s useless.  In other words, the composition of the process should help us meet project objectives, not management's need to see and understand one single process.  And certainly not the CMMI appraiser’s need to put your team through the paces of a death march.

What your CMMI appraiser apparently fails to realize is that there is a key concept in the CMMI called tailoring.

Appropriate tailoring is the essence of CMMI Maturity Level 3.  CMMI Maturity Level 3 guides us to modify and adopt our processes (which could be based on the CMMI) to meet the needs of our project. 

You are not alone with this type of advice.  I’ve heard stories of CMMI appraisers telling organizations that Level 3 is about every company doing the same thing the same way every time.  NOT!

It’s about figuring out what your project needs, and having a process that supports that.  It’s about having the option to have several DIFFERENT processes.

For example, tailoring in Maturity Level 3 gives you the ability modify the process to meet your needs.  But you just can’t do it in a vacuum.  You need to select from a set of processes that is managed, maintained, and improved.

Notice I said “set.”  The CMMI specifically refers to your Organizational Set of Standard Processes, the OSSP.  It does not refer to the "Standard Process."  There is no such thing!

This is just another instance of CMMI consultants using the wrong words, which drive the completely wrong behavior.  When people hear it wrong enough times, they learn it wrong.  That’s why it is common for people to believe the words in the CMMI are referring to the "standard process.” When I deliver CMMI Consulting, I try to stick to the actual definitions in the book!

Again: the SEI authors very explicitly says in the CMMI text that you should have more than one process.  That's what a set is - more than one!

Some CMMI consultants are probably scratching their heads right now, as if they’ve never heard this.  My advice to them is: “It’s right here in the book – take a look.”

Don’t put up with misinformation, Jonathan.  If the CMMI Consultant you're working with doesn’t get it, replace him or her with someone who does.

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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