Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Will CMMI+Scrum work for us?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – I have an agile background and am a new partner in a traditional engineering firm in Falls Church, Virginia. My senior partners are interested in your idea of taking an agile approach to CMMI, but there are some fears about Scrum. What’s the best way to evaluate whether CMMI + Scrum will work in our environment? ~ Billy A.

Hey, Billy. Congratulations on being made partner. It reflects well on your senior partners that they chose someone who would champion new ideas like CMMI + Scrum.

You say they have some fears about Scrum? I wonder what you mean by that. Do they think chairs are going to get broken?

It’s true that Scrum Teams can get a little wild and crazy … but so far, to my knowledge, there have been no furniture casualties.

Even so, you ask a great question. Every traditional engineering or software firm needs to ask it from time to time, especially those who have adopted the CMMI:

Will CMMI + Scrum work for you? If it were simply a matter of logic, the answer would be, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Unfortunately, I’ve found that people are not logical when faced with change. Human beings tend to fear new ideas. And CMMI + Scrum is definitely a new idea that a lot of people are uncomfortable with, at first.

You may know from previous posts that this CMMI Appraiser started his career journey as a classical musician, and that my first degree was in music. Hence I use a lot of musical references, including this quote by the pioneering American composer, John Cage:

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."

Actually, I can understand why people are uncomfortable with Scrum. The first time I worked on a Scrum Team, I was uncomfortable with it. Now I’m such a big fan that many of our PROCESS projects are using Scrum.

So I feel qualified to offer a couple of suggestions for helping your partners get comfortable with CMMI + Scrum.

First, ask them to take a look at the CMMI’s Generic Practices, specifically GP2.8 and GP2.10. These GPs guide us to review data about process performance with higher level management. In other words, let’s have a discussion about the following data:

How happy are our customers?
Do we have a lot of rework here?
How productive are our employees?
What kind of defects do we have?
Do we have over-budget projects or late projects?

The answers may surprise you. They may even frighten you. I was talking with one engineering executive recently who did not even know what the metrics he should be tracking, or even what questions to ask. He was flying blind.  Scary!

Scrum helps us solve some of those problems by building constructs that encourage "information radiation," collaboration, and rapid return on information. Yes, Scrum takes faith and trust to get used to it, but I’d rather do that than continue to do things that haven’t been working. Perhaps your partners would agree that it may be worthwhile to try something a little different.

Feel free to share the Virginia CMMI + Scrum training class we are conducting specifically on this topic. Click the links below for more details and to register for CMMI Training in Virginia:

September 14, 2012 in Fairfax, VA – CMMI + Scrum Learning Experience

Your partners and you will get a lot out of the CMMI + Scrum Learning Experience. In this 1-day workshop, I lead you through a series of games and exercises designed to help you learn how to use CMMI to improve your Scrum or agile implementation, and how to make CMMI work with Scrum.

Thanks for the timely question, Billy! Hope to see you and your partners in September.

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.


Scrum training said...

An agile implementation should be tailored to match an organization’s actual maturity level

Jeff Dalton said...

Dear ScrumTraining,

I agree completely! A maturity mis-match can be a disaster! Here's another idea - "actual maturity level" often isnt' the same as "achieved maturity level." Think about. CMMI isn't really about CMMI Level 2 or CMMI Level 3, it's about real process improvement - whether it be agile or waterfall.