Monday, April 16, 2012

Tax Day Question: Is a CMMI appraisal the same as an audit?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, we’re a small engineering company in Michigan. Preparing our taxes reminded me of the SCAMPI audit we are going through. Our CMMI Consultant has our ATMs collecting artifacts for each sub-practice and memorizing everything in the CMMI book. He keeps them working 12-14 hours per day, every day. Are all CMMI appraisals as grueling as a tax audit? ~ Buster O.

Hey, Buster,

Nooooo! A SCAMPI appraisal is NOT an audit! A good Lead Appraiser is the OPPOSITE of an auditor. By treating the SCAMPI appraisal like an audit, your current CMMI Consultant is driving all the wrong behaviors, wasting money and making people hate the CMMI. He is acting like it's Tax Day for CMMI users.

The truth, Buster, is that nothing about the CMMI is like an audit. CMMI is a model for continuous improvement. A Lead Appraiser is tasked with not only ensuring that you’re using the model properly, but that you are getting value out of it, and that your company is using it to become a great company. That’s the bottom line of CMMI.

If your Lead Appraiser is insisting on seeing “work product evidence,” or what are now called “artifacts” for every single sub-practice in the model, he’s acting like an auditor. The CMMI does NOT call for an audit of sub-practices! So you can throw away that old shoe-box full of receipts. It’s not necessary.  Sub-practices simply give us a glimpse into the mind of the authors to help us understand what they were thinking.

Why is your Lead Appraiser acting like this? Perhaps it makes him feel more important if he can force people to be terrified of him. I’ve heard that the IRS likes to intimidate people too. That’s why they wear those dark sunglasses and pound on doors after midnight.

If your Lead Appraiser is wearing dark sunglasses, pounding on doors and insisting that you memorize everything in the CMMI book, he is distorting the intention of the Model. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no reason for anyone in your company to jump through these hoops.

The practices in the CMMI are meant to provide valuable guidance for you, Buster. They are not things to comply with, as written. They are not hoops to jump through or penalties to be incurred if you miss a step. They are suggestions of what to do to make your company incrementally and iteratively better.

There are few quick-fixes in the CMMI. I do have one suggestion, though. You can make your company instantly better by getting rid of your current Lead Appraiser and replacing him with a good Lead Appraiser.

A good Lead Appraiser won’t care if you know what the GPs are, by their numbers. A good Lead Appraiser won’t care about keeping your people chained to their desks. Here’s what a good Lead Appraiser will care about:
  • Are you training people effectively?
  • Do you have a way of doing work that is useful and that can be replicated?
  • Do you have policies that clearly set expectations for how work gets done?
  • Are you improving as an organization?
  • Are you learning about yourselves?
  • .... and stuff like that.
A good Lead Appraiser wants to know how he can help you get better. He doesn’t want to see you saddled you with “process debt,” busy-work and taxes. Rather, the approach of a good Lead Appraiser is not taxing at all.

Like the old marketing slogan, "it doesn't cost . . . it pays!"

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.

1 comment:

Shawn Rapjack said...

Jeff, great comments – Buster’s CMMI consultant sounds like a …. Well, anyway! This reminded me of your response a few weeks back about ‘How Much Does a CMMI Appraisal Cost?’ Your answer was ‘Nothing’ (i.e. No taxes are due! Yay!) If an organization is following its tailored engineering solutions, producing and preserving logical artifacts, and keeping up the momentum – there should never be a need to ‘prepare’ for an appraisal.

Buster – has your consultant ever been through an appraisal? An appraisal team will not ‘quiz’ your ATMs and process practitioners on their knowledge of the CMMI book. This memorization is a bizarre, wasteful exercise.

Shawn Rapjack
Process Improvement Advocate