Friday, April 13, 2012

On Friday the 13th, did the CMMI Appraiser from Virginia bring bad luck?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser,

I lead the CMMI effort for our engineering division in Maryland. Our whole reason for hiring this CMMI Appraiser from Virginia was to get our CMMI certificate and win new business. So far, no luck. What gives? ~ Bill D.

Hey, Bill,

It’s apt that your question comes on Friday the 13th, the unofficial holiday of bad luck. This calls for a special CMMI Appraiser’s rabbit’s foot. One for you, one for me, and one for your CMMI Appraiser from Virginia.

I kid because you're not alone, Bill.  We hear from companies all the time who call to say, “Hey, we need to look at CMMI certification because we’d like to bid on certain government contracts.”

I get that. I fully acknowledge many small and large engineering companies in Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere must achieve a CMMI Maturity Level in order to bid on work. In some cases, we’re talking about millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts. It's a business reality we all have to deal with.

But CMMI certification can’t be your CMMI Appraiser’s only goal – or you will not get the results you were hoping for.  As a matter of fact, CMMI Certification doesn't even exist!

To help make my point, let’s go back to the CMMI Appraiser you mentioned. If he or she was a good CMMI Appraiser, they might have asked you “Why are you doing this to yourself?” That might have led to discussion about the possibilities of adopting CMMI as model to be a great company - not a model to get a plaque (we call this "plaque buildup").  Was that your experience?

One technique I often employ is to try to talk the sponsor out of having an appraisal altogether - just to see how important it really is to them and to understand how much they have thought it through. Sometimes, as it turns out, it isn't that important.  Sometimes it's about greatness . . . as it should be.

See, a good CMMI Appraiser would know that learning about your company and how to make it better is the real goal – not achieving a level.

A good CMMI Appraiser would teach you to start to think like a great company.  He or she would help you use the CMMI as a strategic weapon to help you attract and retain new customers.

A good CMMI Appraiser would help you set the right goals and objectives, and ask the right questions that keep you on the path to continuous improvement, where the real deals are won.

Did any of that happen with your CMMI Appraiser from Virginia?  If so, then great!

Unfortunately, too many CMMI professionals don't get this. Some are only interested in helping companies get a so-called CMMI certificate or achieve  CMMI Maturity Level.   We call these companies "appraisal mills." They see no value in providing advice, strategy, and helping to ensure that you get the results you were hoping for.

And they don't even think about why you haven’t won new business.  Boooo!

That’s not bad luck. It’s bad practice.

The CMMI is so much more valuable and useful than that, Bill. It’s about things like how well you are running your engineering division in Maryland, Virginia, or elsewhere, how well you are delivering products, and how happy your customers are.

It’s all about KNOWLEDGE, and nothing to do with LUCK.

… even on Friday the 13th.

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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