Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why CMMI Certification Might Drive You Crazy

Dear CMMI Appraiser, we are a supplier of electronics and software to large commercial organizations. Lately customers been giving preference to firms that are CMMI Level 2 or 3. We attempted to get our CMMI certification in 2011, but got too busy and failed our CMMI Appraisal.  To get our CMMI certification in 2012 what do we do - try again?

~ Laurence F.

Laurence, your story reminds me of Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In my opinion, if you go for CMMI certification again this year, and don't change your approach, nothing you can possibly do will be different, and the only certification you will qualify for is this one:

Why do I say that? Because the CMMI is not about certification.

Now, I’m just kidding you about being certifiably insane. You have simply been misled, as have many others. After all, the phrase “CMMI certification” is commonly used. It all started with our friends at the Department of Defense, who created an environment where a CMMI mandate feels and looks like a certification. By extension, many electronics and software companies in the commercial sector are routinely inserting requirements in their RFPs and contracts that suppliers be at a certain CMMI Level. You are not alone.  

But focusing on CMMI certification is crazy. Or, to put it more gently, it’s a misguided interpretation of what actually needs to be done.

Your clients want you to be better at what you do. That’s a noble intention. We all want that for ourselves, to be in a continuously improving environment.

But if you focus on CMMI certification, you end up losing all of the value of the CMMI.  You end up chasing the paper, not the improvements.

And here's a secret (shhh, this is between you and me so don't tell ANYONE)!  It's easier to do it right than it is to chase the paper!  And you also get the benefits.  What's not to like?

The value of the CMMI comes from the transformation of the culture of your company. It’s about changing the way we behave, so that we build products that are better than other companies that are building similar products - albeit with lame processes that cost more, produce lower quality, and make employees unhappy.

You can’t transform a culture by going out and getting certificates. When we put a “certification” mindset around getting better, it drives the wrong kind of behaviors.

And that can drive you crazy.

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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead AppraiserCertified 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 www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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