Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How do you spell CMMI Relief?

Dear CMMI Appraiser – I am the owner of a small software engineering firm with large multi-national clients. We want to renew our CMMI appraisal to keep our CMMI certificate, but we find the process is just too complicated and too much overhead. How can we get relief? ~ Sunny A.


As you evaluate your CMMI appraisal and renewal, I suggest that you consider that this discussion is not about CMMI certification.  It’s about culture. Once you help your team get clarity on this matter, they’ll come to understand that process isn’t overhead. Process is the definition of how we do work every day.

I discussed this challenge in my interview with Bill Fox on 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success! (now on Amazon), which is a blog that highlights the best in project management and process improvement strategies and tactics.

As I said to Bill, it sometimes helps to use a clever little trick to help teams think about process differently. Feel free to try this with your team, Sunny. Stand up and say, “Hey, everyone, I want to show you a new way to spell ‘process.’”

Then write out the phonetic spelling of the word ‘engineering,’ like this:


It's a funky looking word and it'll take them a moment to decode it.  Once they do, tell them what you mean. Say that process isn’t this thing we do that adds overhead, time and energy. If they do it that way, then they did it wrong. Instead, process is about how we perform engineering tasks every dy.

So how do they put this concept to work?

The method we utilize is one that we pioneered, called the AgileCMMI methodology. AgileCMMI starts with the concept that people learn best by digesting information in very small pieces – not by waterfall. Developers are no different. We present everything incrementally and iteratively, in a language they understand, using UML diagrams and data flow diagrams. It’s a much better approach than trying to convert them to process experts, which they will resent and resist.

Once they’ve started getting the benefits of adopting the CMMI in small pieces, through the use of their current tools and knowledge, your team will begin to see your point that process isn’t overhead. Process is not some foreign thing that you are making them do, but just another word for engineering.

The AgileCMMI methodology works in environments large and small. We’ve had really good success with small organizations like yours solving problems for big organizations like NASA.

There are other methods, and other CMMI consultants will surely have their own approaches. But whatever path you take, be sure to keep your team focused on culture, not certification. It really is the best way to get relief. 

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 www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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