Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SPaMCast Question #8: Does the math work with agileCMMI?

[NOTE: Over the past several 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.]

Jeff, the approach of taking pieces of all the models was one of the big take-aways I had when I read Don Reinertsen’s “Product Flow 2.0,” which I think is one of the seminal documents for proving this stuff works from the point of view of economics and math. Having a little bit of a math background, I like to know that not only does this sound good and feel good, but the math holds. ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

Tom, I think Reinertsen makes an amazing point. This is something that I’ve thought about, and that he’s articulated better than I never could. For me, the thought-process started about 10-15 years ago when clients told me their opinions about mainframes and client servers. The math equation they used was pretty primitive. It went, “Mainframe, bad. Client server, good.” And I find the same thing is happening today with, “Waterfall, bad. Agile, good.” Or “CMMI, bad. ISO, good.”

These are false dichotomies that they’ve set up.  Unfortunately, in our sound bite world, they have the ring of authority

The truth is that all these things have goodness, and all have aspects to them that are not so good. For instance, I would choose a mainframe computer over a server-based environment in certain environments, such as super high transaction banking. That’s still the #1 mainframe user of the world. It’s an appropriate environment at this time for certain kinds of things. But I wouldn’t put one in my house. It’s not appropriate there.

It’s the same with any of these process models. Consider: 
  • There’s a lot of goodness in CMMI – there’s some weakness in it
  • There’s a lot of goodness in Scrum – there’s some weakness in it
  • There’s a lot of goodness in Waterfall – there’s some weakness in it
It’s really just a matter of understanding what pieces work for our business, and what pieces make us want to choose something else. The underlying assumption is, whatever we are doing, we can make it even a little bit better. That puts the onus on us, not the process model, to come up with what works for our unique set of circumstances.  So we look around at everything that’s out there, and pick what works best for our company.

And if we do our job correctly, the sum will be greater than the parts.  That's math that works.

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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