Hey, CMMI Appraiser – we are an electronics parts manufacturer in Virginia that recently merged with an organization that follows the CMMI. Even though they acquired us because of our Agile approach, my new manager doesn’t understand Scrum at all. He keeps asking me to push my team to “continuously improve” and “get better” at what they do, and “do more with less.” What the heck does that mean? We’re just trying to build great products, same as always. ~ Dan L.
Hey, Dan, so, your best isn’t good enough, you don’t know why, and you don’t know what your manager's expectations are for what improvement looks like. Hasn't he trained you to read his mind? That would fall under GP2.5 by the way . . . .
I remember earlier in my career when I was the CIO of a company and I heard the same thing. "Get better! Make sure your team is continually improving!" Like you, I said, What does that mean? Come in earlier? Work harder? Be more serious? (They actually said that to me one time. I responded by being LESS serious).
So you are not alone with this problem, my friend. The cool thing is, since then, I’ve done a lot of work with companies that have embraced the CMMI and Scrum in an effort to get better, and I've learned to help demystify things a bit.
In my opinion, the clearest way to think about Scrum and CMMI is in terms of process improvement, not running teams or projects. That keeps us focused on the only project we really care about, the one called, “Making our company Great.” Scrum can help companies adopt things like CMMI, ISO and continuous improvement programs in general.
Now, I don’t claim to be a mind-reader, but that could be exactly what your manager wants: Taking Agile and making it better by applying the lessons of the CMMI. And conversely, taking the CMMI and making it better with Agile. If you're getting a recursion headache now, don't worry. It'll subside.
If so, he's onto something, although maybe not articulating it very well. This is an idea I’m really passionate about. I believe all organizations can benefit from rethinking the CMMI and Scrum and how they work. It boils down to three simple concepts:
First, the CMMI is a behavioral model, not a process. It was intended to help make things better, a guide to continuously improve. It describes how great companies perform.
Second, as such, the CMMI doesn’t tell you HOW to get better. In fact, the CMMI doesn’t tell you how to do anything. It says, “Here’s what great companies have told us that they do.” Your job is to apply these lessons to what you are doing in your context. Tricky? Yes, but well worth it.
Finally, the truth about CMMI and Scrum is that they are both the "same thing." They are tools to help solve business problems. They help us improve requirements churn and volatility, they help us meet schedule and budget, and they help us perform the work that we do every day. They're not overhead - they're "underhead."
So relax, Dan. You’ve got everything you need. Leverage Scrum to get the best of the CMMI. And leverage the CMMI to get the best of Scrum.
If that’s what your manager is thinking, then I see a happy, productive company in your future.
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 www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about running a successful CMMI program.