Friday, March 30, 2012

SPaMCast Question #9: What would you change about agile and the CMMI?

[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, If you woke up tomorrow morning, and someone handed you a cup of coffee and a magic wand, and said you could change any two things in the CMMI and agile world, what would they be and why? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

Tom, the #1 thing I would change in the CMMI world is the focus on achieving Maturity Levels. I would reduce that, and increase the focus on people using the CMMI to become a great company. This is a matter of education. I would change the perception of the model from one that is a “compliance” model to one that is a tool-set to solve most of our strategic problems.
After getting zapped by my wand, the leader of every organization would understand that adopting the CMMI is all about solving business problems. It’s not about documents, forms, certificates or ratings. It’s about adopting a model that's about how great organizations perform, which in turn is about living a great life.

Then I’d turn my wand on the agile world. There is a problem with the way companies interact with agile teams, especially around the way contracts and finance people manage projects. I’d change the perception of agile with upper management, and I would also change the perception of upper management with agile teams.

To illustrate why, I have a funny story. Recently, at a major automotive manufacturer, I taught an agile CMMI training class to two different groups. One was a group of engineers, and one was a group of managers. It became clear right away that their perception of each other was completely wrong.

In the first agile CMMI training class, the engineers complained about every decision that their managers made, as well as their strategy and tactics. In the second agile CMMI training class, management complained about engineers not giving them good information.

Sitting on my perch atop both groups of trainees, it was obvious to see how to fix the problem. If I could zap them with my magic wand, you’d see agile teams and management teams talking to each other. Really talking! They would have good business conversations about how they are going to run their business, without getting all caught up in ego, agile purity or the blame-game.

And the dust from my wand would make them joyful, because they would be working side-by-side in a spirit of ongoing celebration in their quest to become a great company.  OK.....maybe that's too much information!

But here's the real magic, Tom: you don’t need a wand to make it happen. You need a strong desire to improve on what you’re already doing.  If I woke up tomorrow and there was no magic wand, I'd do the same thing I always do.  I'd take the best of both models.  I'd adopt a flexible, agile approach to the CMMI, that fits within my company's particular situation.

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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