Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Ghost of CMMI Appraisals Past

The previous CMMI consultant gave us a real scare today when he suffered flashbacks to past CMMI appraisals, and let out a scream.  "BUT I GOT THEM THEIR CERTIFICATE!"

In case you came late to the party, here’s what’s happening.

We’re two-thirds into our annual 12 Days of CMMI holiday party, the festivus for the rest of us, or as I like to call it "holiday treats for the process geeks."  Each day we’ve celebrated one of the 12 Generic Practices (GPs), which are the very essence of the CMMI.

Sounds like harmless fun, right?

Well, it was … until the previous CMMI consultant – last seen napping in the bathtub – had a nightmare, and let out a blood-curdling shriek.

“It was awful,” he said as we rushed to his assistance. “I saw the Ghost of CMMI Appraisals Past. He showed me everything I ever did wrong.”

“There, there,” Virginia, the developer, said. “It was just a dream.”

“No, it was real!” the previous CMMI consultant said. “It really happened! I told my client they had to ‘get a level.’ I told another client ‘the SEI makes you document everything.’ To a third client I actually said ‘It’s all about the documents!’”

Now, the CMMI Appraiser is a compassionate guy, but how could we possibly empathize? The rest of us have always known that CMMI Appraisals are NOT about documents. Documents are merely one method for verifying process performance. And the amount of documents (number, size, and scope) should reflect the needs of your projects. If you took a CMMI Training course and "learned" that the CMMI was about documents –  go ask for your money back!

The previous CMMI consultant started sobbing, “I want to be like you guys! I want to change!”

Yea, I'll help you change.... professions.

Christmas can be an emotional time.  Only the joyful acquisition of knowledge would set him free.  So we gave the poor guy a belt of egg-nog, threw a coat over his shoulders and took him out in the cold to go caroling with us. After all …

It’s Day 8 of the 12 Days of CMMI. Sing it!

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

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 2.8 – Monitor and Control the Process

The eighth generic practice guides us to monitor and control the process against the plan for performing the process and take appropriate corrective action.

GP 2.8 is all about answering one simple question:

"How do you know?"

How do you know if the process works?  How would you make it better?  Are things improving?  Getting worse?  Static?  Because if they're getting worse, guess what!  You blew it!

This is a very pivotal practice -  maybe the most pivotal. This gives us data about how well the process works.  If we don't know that - why are we doing this?

Here are some of the data: 
  • How is the process performing?
  • Are we getting the results we expected?
  • How can we make it better? 
Example?  Let’s say Santa wanted to monitor and control the process of knitting sweaters.  In an effort to monitor and control the elves’ development process, Santa will want to capture how many stitches it takes to knit a sweater using the current process, how many mistakes are discovered during formal "elf-reviews," and how many defects are in his sweaters. This is data about how well the sweater-making is going. GP 2.8 keeps Santa’s Workshop in a holly-jolly mood.

There are many different options for monitoring process performance. Data is reported on, at some point in time (potentially in real time), throughout the entire life-cycle. Sometimes it's more anectodotal. A healthy company has a combination of both quantitative and qualitative data.

Failing to monitor and control processes is not an option. And yet we see many so-called "CMMI consultants" exhorting their teams to finish the projects and present documents with no real insight into how things are going or how they can be made better.  You end up with some really ugly sweaters.

But it's not about goodness they say!  Bah humbug!  It may not be about "goodness" but it is about KNOWING whether or not you have goodness.

Talk about the nightmare before Christmas!

Fortunately, there are better dreams to be had, and GP 2.8 helps make them a reality.  As we keep saying, the CMMI is not about documents. It’s about learning to be a great company.

Our advice to the previous CMMI consultant?  Be a great CMMI consultant. In my opinion, here are the characteristics of a great CMMI consultant:

A great CMMI consultant will TEACH you how to become successful Process Designers and Implementers so you can synthesize the right solutions for your company

A great CMMI consultant will TEACH you the most effective ways to communicate

A great CMMI consultant will TEACH you how to run a successful Process Action Team, or Special Interest Group

A great CMMI consultant will TEACH you about how your SEPG can be successful, and how it should evolve

A great CMMI consultant will TEACH you how to get value from your process – not just to “pass” an appraisal

A great CMMI consultant will TEACH you about “Just Enough, not Too Much

Learning is something we do in Christmas Present.  GP 2.8 assures that there is no need to live in Christmas Past.
Join us tomorrow for Christmas Future.

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.

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