Friday, December 16, 2011

The True Sprit of the CMMI

If you were with us yesterday here at Ask the CMMI Appraiser's “12 Days of CMMI” party, you witnessed a true Christmas miracle.

Yes, the abominable old CMMI sponsor , known for shouting at his engineers, “Do CMMI, or you’re FIRED!” suddenly became a champion of the 12 Generic Practices (GPs).

As you know, the GPs are the heart and soul of any successful CMMI program, and that’s all we really want for Christmas – a successful CMMI program. You can read the whole touching story here.

Awww ….  
Today a new challenge has arrived. Bliss Unobtrusive, the CEO, finally showed up at the party.

We love Bliss. He’s a chilled-out boss. But that “no problem” attitude of his keeps feeding slack into the organization, which we keep trying to tighten. But we’ll deal with Bliss when we get back from our daily round of CMMI caroling, which we like to think of as our happy path to greatness. Especially when we’ve had this much egg-nog.

Still with me? Today is Day 10 of the 12 Days of CMMI. Let’s make a joyful noise! 

“On the tenth 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 2.10 – Review Status with Higher Level Management

The tenth GP guides us to review status with higher level management.  But that doesn't mean what you think it means.

It means management needs to care....

Enter Bliss, the CEO I was just telling you about. “Of course I care!” Bliss says. “I love this company like one of my children. Specifically, Hope, my oldest daughter, who needs glasses.”

Gotcha. But that’s not the issue, Bliss. We know you care … but do you care about the right things? Are you looking at the right indicators? Do you even know what the right metrics are?

“Well, no.”

How happy are your customers? Do you have a lot of rework here? How productive are your employees? What kind of defects do you have?

“I don’t know.  But we hire great people.”

So I turned to the CFO, who has been snarfing Christmas cookies as fast as Mrs. CMMI Appraiser can bake them. Sir, what are your two biggest challenges right now?  Please finish chewing first.

“We have late projects, and over-budget projects," he said.  "Our clients are unhappy.  Our people are unhappy.  They have to come in earlier, stay later, work weekends, work nights, do whatever they can do. We have too many meetings.  Our best people quit to go work for our competitors. Nothing we do is sustainable or scalable.   We’re losing market-share. We’ll be lucky if we’re still in business one year from today. My stomach hurts.”

Dude, that was like 50 problems. I only asked for two.

Now let’s ask the CEO. Bliss, what is the solution?

GP 2.10?”

Correct.  Or better stated, applying the lessons of GP 2.10 in our adoption of the CMMI toward continuous improvement.

Again, GP 2.10 means management needs to care. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Bliss doesn’t care. It just means he doesn’t care about the right things. The answers I was seeking are exactly the kind of information he needs to have in order to manage his business with process levers. But he didn’t care about that.

See, when you care enough to embrace GP 2.10, you get this wonderful gift called Process Levers.

A process lever is something you do to the process to change a behavior or an outcome. They use process levers at Santa’s Workshop (you knew that was coming). In fact, Santa thinks about the CMMI primarily as a magical construct that gives him the framework to develop process levers.

Let’s say Santa was faced with lots of changing requirements, lots of mistakes in requirements and lots of disagreement about what needs to be done. If the Workshop is churning a lot on this – if they have more than 10% or 15% churn on their requirements – Santa can pull a process lever.

The lever he pulls says, “We need to validate the requirements in a different way as they come in the door. We need to catch these things before they get to test, before they get to design and code or build, and before they get to requirements spec drill-down.”  In other words, we need to CHANGE the process.

Process levers are built right into the CMMI at the North Pole. But you can use them anywhere.

See, the cool thing about the CMMI is that it is not so much an engineering model as it is a behavioral improvement model. It actually gives us data (which comes from GP 2.8 and GP 2.9.) that allows us to say, “The next time we do this thing, is there a way to do it better, faster, cheaper, with higher quality and less costs?” – or whatever our goals and objectives might be.

Know how well the process is working, and whether or not people are using it.

That’s the true spirit of the CMMI, Bliss.

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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