Monday, April 2, 2012

Can the CMMI give us more control?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, now that we’ve passed the CMMI appraisal, our CMMI consultant seems to be rushing our teams to finish projects and present documents, with no real insight into how things are going or how they can be made better. Isn’t the CMMI supposed to give us more control in these areas? ~ Jack E., Quality Assurance Director

Jack, yes, the CMMI is designed to give you more control.  The way that happens is primarily support with the 12 Generic Practices (or GPs).  And none of them talk about "presenting documents!"

The GPs set up an environment that makes improvement possible, and are primarily the responsibility of executives like you who are leading the CMMI effort.  Even when you have a CMMI consultant working with you, it’s YOUR job to leverage the GPs to establish a useful level of control over your processes.

Specifically, GP 2.8 is in place to help you.  The eighth generic practice guides you to monitor and control the process against the plan for performing the process, and take appropriate corrective action.

GP 2.8 is all about answering one simple question: "How do you know?"  And that gives you greater control.

How do you know if the process works? How would you make it better? Are things improving? Getting worse? Static? Because if they're getting worse, guess what! You blew it!

GP 2.8 is a pivotal practice - maybe the most pivotal. GP 2.8 gives you data about how well the process works.  Obtaining this knowledge is not up to your CMMI consultant.  It’s up to you, Jack, and you are wise to ask for help.

So here’s what I recommend. Take a step back and evaluate the data. Ask the following questions:
  • How is the process performing?
  • Are we getting the results we expected?
  • How can we make it better?
A lack of interesting in monitoring and controlling processes is a major reason why projects – and companies – fail. And yet we see many so-called "CMMI consultants" encouraging exactly that. They exhort their teams to finish projects and present documents as though it doesn’t matter how things are going or how they can be made better. I’ve even heard some of these so-called CMMI consultants say “it’s not about goodness.”

Give me a break. That’s like saying it doesn’t matter if dinner is burnt, as long as it’s on the table on time. It may not be about "goodness" but it is about KNOWING whether or not you have goodness so you can have a better dinner next time around!

Fortunately, there are better meals to be enjoyed. GP 2.8 helps you cook them up. It starts with a clear perspective on what the CMMI is really all about. As I have said and keep saying, the CMMI is not about documents. It’s about learning to be a great company.

It helps to have a great CMMI consultant too. A great CMMI consultant is someone who will teach you how to get value from your process – not just to “pass” an appraisal or present documents.

Is your CMMI consultant great?  Is he or she getting better at teaching you? If not, it may be time to find a great CMMI consultant who can help you adopt the CMMI in a manner that is most appropriate to your company and the way you want to work.

The CMMI is a framework for life-long learning, and GP 2.8 helps you apply what you’ve learned. A great CMMI consultant will help you keep these things in mind so that you always know how things are going and how they can be made better.

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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