Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SPaMCast Question #3: Can the CMMI improve a Daily Stand-up?

[NOTE: For the last few days, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing snippets from a 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, to give us an idea of how these two frameworks (Agile and CMMI) can interact, do you have an example of how the CMMI can help get more value out of a Stand-up? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast

Tom, as a matter of fact, that is one of the exercises in the Scrum+CMMI training class we offer. We teach the learning experience using Scrum. Here’s how it works:
Just like any Scrum team, we start the day by saying, “Let’s have a 15 minute Daily Stand-up.” Everyone stands up, and we go around the room, using the context of the conference we’re attending. We talk about things going on at the conference. What are the things we have to watch out for? What are some of the risks?

We assemble the comments on a white board. We get five to seven comments before they peter out, just like a typical Daily Stand-up. “Here’s what we’re doing; here’s what we did; here’s what is blocking us,” and so forth.

Then I say, “Hey, let’s pull out the Risk Management process area in the CMMI.”

Everybody groans and says, “Oh boy, here comes the documentation.”

I go forward with a more directed discussion. I ask, “What were some of the technical risks we’re having in this conference this week?”

One guy says, “We were worried we wouldn’t have the right equipment here.”

Another Scrum teammate talks about the HVAC, and someone else makes a comment about the electricity and connectivity.

After we’ve gathered a bunch of technical risks, I direct the discussion to other risks. I say, “What are the logistical risks we’re suffering from today?” And I get a bunch of responses specific to logistical risks. And so on.

Through this conversation, without creating any documents, without incurring any overhead, we create a very robust set of risks, many of which we haven’t thought about.

Then I put the CMMI up on the wall and I say, “This first practice in Risk Management (RSKM), we'll call it ‘categorizing.’ It guides us to have establish categories and sources for your risks.”

This is nothing more than a brain-tease exercise. But it reveals a lot. Participants immediately recognize that, if we come up with some categories, all of a sudden we’re brainstorming in a much more effective and efficient way than before.

I remind them that, in the first Daily Stand-up, we only came up with five to seven things that the Scrum team was worried about. In the second exercise, where we applied just the ‘categories’ practice of the CMMI, we came up with 30 things, about 25 of which were really important.

So, in this workshop, in a five minute period, we demonstrate that just a simple application of one single practice of the CMMI can completely change the way we think about risks.

In this very light and agile way, we’re using the CMMI to help guide us. We’re making sure we are talking about things that are really important, and we’re using the CMMI as a framework to help guide us through the discussion.

This gives us two major advantages. By using the simple Daily Stand-up mechanism, we get a really crisp, robust view of the project, so we can understand what’s going on. We understand it early, and we understand it often.  And by adopting some of the best practices that the CMMI provides, we get more value out of the Daily Stand-up, allowing us to make it even stronger than it already was.

It’s a pretty powerful exercise because it really shows how well agile and CMMI can work together.

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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