Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SPaMCast Question #2: Why do folks think CMMI is oppressive?

[NOTE: Over the next few days, the CMMI Appraiser will be sharing snippets from my recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about how the CMMI is fully compatible with Scrum, and can be used to improve agile methods, making the investment in agile both powerful and productive. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 176.]

Hey, Jeff, what causes the perception that people think that the CMMI only has one size: oppressive? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast

Yes, that’s the typical comment that we get from our clients when they first look into a CMMI appraisal or CMMI consulting. “The CMMI is oppressive.” I always tell students at our CMMI trainings that I could write a Psych 103 book about this.

It’s an interesting confluence of events that caused this problem, and it goes way back to when the DoD used to mandate the CMMI as part of the rating they used to select suppliers. The DoD and other early adopters of CMMI, like Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins, Boeing and Air Force, indeed had a lot to do with the creation of the model. These organizations were already conducting oppressive software projects. They were already top-down and document heavy. It stands to reason that their interpretation of how this model was satisfied was going to be the same thing they were already doing.

On the other hand, I believe that if the first adopters of the CMMI had been agile, innovative thinkers like Kent Beck and Ron Jeffries, Jeff Sutherland and Chris Sims, we’d see a CMMI that looked agile and light weight. But, instead, because the big, rigid, iron-clad companies adopted the model first, they set the standard.

Now, we often hear from companies who call us and say, “Hey, we need to look at CMMI certification because we’d like to bid on certain government contracts.” We see this as an education process. It starts with asking, “Is that really why you are doing this? I understand that you want to win that business. But the CMMI is so much more valuable and useful than that. Let’s talk about things like how well you are running your software, how well you are delivering, how happy your customers are.”

Once they realize that these are the kinds of questions they should be asking, and that learning should be their goal – not achieving a level or winning new business – that’s when they start to think like a great company.

I’m constantly reminding them of this. I tell them, “You worry about being a great company. I’ll worry about helping guide you toward this CMMI goal. We’ll meet at the end.”

It’s true. If you focus setting the right goals and objectives, and asking the right questions, you are going to be a great company. When the time is right, you are going to get whatever level you are looking for. We can do that using Scrum, waterfall … any method that makes sense for you, as long as it makes sense for you.

What you discover is that the CMMI is not oppressive at all. In fact, it can be a joyful, liberating experience.

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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