Monday, December 19, 2011

'Twas the Night Before CMMI

On the night before CMMI, the process police showed up waving their damn CMMI books at our “12 Days of CMMI” party, and asked the CMMI Appraiser to pipe down. Apparently, the neighbors complained.  They didn't like our well-organized and efficient partying!

The cops took down our side of the story. We described the awakening of the former CMMI Consultant, who saw a ghost and discovered that CMMI certification is not a very cheery goal. We told them about the transformation of our CMMI sponsor, who learned that the CMMI really is a tool-set to solve strategic problems. And we explained how our blissfully ignorant CEO gained a modicum of understanding that he needs to care about the right things to make his organization great.

We tried to prove to the officers: All we want for Christmas is a successful CMMI program.

“Save it for the judge,” they said. “All we want is to STOP the noise.”

Noise? You mean our song? You mean “The 12 Days of CMMI?” THAT SONG?  It's a joyful song which is sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which we use to celebrate the 12 Generic Practices (GPs), without which, no CMMI adoption can be successful?

 THAT song?

OK, we're up to one of my favorites - GP 3.1!  Let's go!

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

eleven process flowcharts,
ten process levers,
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 3.1 – Establish a Defined Process

GP 3.1 guides us to establish a defined process.

This takes some explaining. Yes, the long arm of the law may be after us, but let’s pause long enough to make ourselves clear. There’s more to GP 3.1 than establishing a defined process. GP 3.1 is really guiding us to define how each process is going to be performed within the context of the project.

Now, before his awakening, our old CMMI Consultant insisted that, in order to "do CMMI," then "EVERYTHING MUST BE DONE THE SAME WAY EVERY TIME!"  phooey!

This is where the architecture comes in. For example, in the North Pole, Santa provides a facility for his elves to define their own process, based on guidelines and standards. For each project, they will establish a process that is defined for their project to meet their needs, all thanks to GP 3.1.

By the way, did you notice the numbering of these GPs? The first 10 GPs started with the number 2. That’s because they provided guidance through Maturity or Capability Level 2. These last GPs start with the number 3 because they are specific to Maturity or Capability Level 3.

GP 3.1 gives companies some definition around how they perform their work. After all, every project is going to have some uniqueness to it. It’s up to management to provide an environment in which the organization can manage that uniqueness in a structured way - based on a SET of processes that are available for use.

Let’s say Santa’s elves are welding bike frames for Christmas. Now, you may not have known this, but most elves are left-handed, and so the processes naturally are designed for left-handed elves. But a few of the elves are right handed. They naturally want to hold the blowtorch on the right side, rather than the left side, which is what the process calls for.

What to do? Well, Santa’s very flexible and agile. He understands the value in having his right-handed elves to do things righty.  Imagine what could happen if he didn't!  You've heard of a "scorched-earth policy?"  This is a scorched elf policy!  Accommodating the righty will require a customization of the process, based on the specific needs of the project. But Santa’s OK with that, because he’s got GP 3.1 to guide his sleigh tonight.

See, that’s why GP 3.1 is so important. Many companies try to standardize the way work gets done. When they do that, they try to make everybody do everything the same way. But when they do that, then they’ve got all of their people doing things the same way, but they are not necessarily the right things for their project.  They actually make it HARDER!  Those people deserve a piece of coal in their stocking.

In fact, without GP 3.1, the process police would surely head straight to the North Pole and burst in on Santa’s Workshop. They would apprehend each right-handed elf and move the blow torch to the left side, because that’s what the process says. And Christmas would be ruined.  And so would some elves.

Oh, look! What good timing! Mrs. CMMI Appraiser has brought out a fresh batch of egg-nog.

Let the record show that the process police sampled a mug, then another, then another …

And the next thing you know, the men in blue were out there caroling along with the rest of us. And there was not a darn thing the neighbors could do except cover their heads with a pillow and hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.

Call it Christmas justice.

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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