Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Abominable CMMI Program Man

Merry Christmas! Welcome to the 12 Days of CMMI Party here at Ask the CMMI Appraiser blog. Hope you brought a toothbrush because this party is in its second week, and we’re not letting up any time soon!

As you know if you’ve been along for the ride, early last week, a bunch of us process geeks got together and decided to celebrate the 12 Generic Practices (GPs) by championing one GP each day.

Why? Because we love the GPs! We believe they are the very spirit of CMMI. And because we love any excuse to sample Mrs. Appraiser’s egg-nog and get a little wild and crazy!

Have we succeeded? Well, a former CMMI Consultant was discovered taking a nap in our bathtub. The QA director lost her boot when she stomped out ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A SUCCESSFUL CMMI PROGRAM! in the snow.  And a neighbor got irate because we keep circling the block singing “The 12 Days of CMMI” (to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas”) at the tops of our lungs.

I'd say, so far so good.

But the wildest thing to happen so far was when the CMMI sponsor, formerly the grouchiest, meanest, foulest-breathed person at the party, decided to drop his threatening demeanor ("Do CMMI or you're FIRED!"), and become a positive supporter of the CMMI program as a way to actually improve performance.  Who could have seen THAT coming?

So yes, it’s wild. Yes, it’s crazy. And yes, it’s ...

… Day 9 of the 12 Days of CMMI! So put your coat back on and join us for some more caroling around the neighborhood. Let them hear you now!

“On the ninth day of Christmas, my boss she gave to me:

nine months adhering,
eight measures captured,
seven roles connected,
six storage systems,
four new assignments,
three new compliers,
two process plans,
and a box with a shiny policy.”

Generic Practice 2.9 – Objectively Evaluate Adherence

The ninth generic practice (GP2.9) guides us to objectively evaluate adherence of the process against its process description, standards, and procedures, and address noncompliance.

In other words, GP 2.9 is the act of capturing the data about adherence and reporting it out.  This implies some level of oversight.

Take Santa’s Workshop. Santa must understand whether the elves are using the process or not. If they are not, why not? What’s the problem? How can we fix it? What did we do wrong? How could they get more value out of it?

If they don't know whether the elves are USING it, how can they know they need to fix it?  So, to all you people that say "this process blows, I'm not using it"....uhhh, WAKE UP!

GP 2.9 instructs Santa, as an executive, on what to look at to assure his processes are being embraced. It also instructs him on what to do with what he sees (i.e., report on his findings with some frequency).

What does that mean, “with some frequency?” How often should you report?

Well, every workshop is different. Your choices include reporting weekly, monthly, quarterly, hourly, or whatever is the right frequency for you. Santa does it annually, but he’s special. Whatever your frequency is, the important part is that you objectively evaluate adherence to the process, and report on it regularly.

Performing at the highest level of organizational excellence is what we’ve come to expect of Santa.  I mean, what would happen if he didn't actually deliver all those presents?  Have you seen "The Santa Claus?"  It's unthinkable!

But we were shocked when we saw the CMMI sponsor starting to behave like a mean-old .

Used to be, the old CMMI sponsor was an absolute monster. His CMMI team did the work it took to be a great company (and, as a natural consequence, achieved the appropriate CMMI Maturity Level).

The CMMI sponsor gave them about 90 seconds to celebrate before pulling out his watch and saying, “OK, how soon do we get to Level 4?”

Imagine how horrible that sounded to the CMMI team. Here they were, making significant personal investments in transforming themselves and their company, and the CMMI sponsor didn’t get it. He still thought it was a race.

“I want the next level by Tuesday!” he growled.

It was really abominable.

He was just like Bumbles, the Abominable Snowman, in that cartoon, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Remember? The mighty Bumbles captures Rudolf’s parents and girlfriend, and threatens to ruin Christmas, until he is defeated by Rudolf and the dentist-elf, and tamed by their friend the Prospector.

The same thing apparently happened with our CMMI sponsor. He kept dealing with the same issues of time, personnel and costs until, ultimately, those issues conquered him. His boss called him on the carpet and said, “Transform, or else.”

The CMMI sponsor finally began to realize that, instead of farming work out overseas, or laying people off, he had to look at the CMMI as a way to dramatically and radically improve the way he ran his department, and not just a way to document their work.

He took our CMMI Training. At the end of the second day, he came up to us, his face flushed with excitement.

“I see the light!” he said. “I see that the CMMI really is a tool-set to solve most of our strategic problems!”

Phew! Looks like we saved Christmas again.

So, party on, revelers! And join us tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of CMMI!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

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

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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