Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How do I communicate my vision for what we’ll look like after adopting the CMMI?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, I am CEO of a Maryland electronics parts engineering firm. Our business is experiencing rapid growth and we’re using the CMMI to design new processes for our Engineers to do their work. Your recent posts about Organizational Change Management have been perfect timing for us. What are some of the things I should be thinking about in terms of communicating the new vision for our company with our 100+ employees?~ Snil V. 

Snil, you are wise to begin planning to communicate your vision for what the company will look like once you’ve adopted the CMMI. As you know from reading our posts about Organizational Change Management, Julie Calfin, Broadsword’s Director of Consulting, does amazing work with companies that are undergoing large scale business transformation. I’ve forwarded your question to Julie. Take it away, Julie! ~ The CMMI Appraiser 

Thank you, CMMI Appraiser!

Snil, it’s a pleasure to hear from readers like you who have gotten value from our blog posts about Organizational Change Management. Planning the vision is a key component of your growth strategy. Many CEOs assume that this just takes care of itself.

Unfortunately for those CEOs who fail to plan how they will communicate, the chance of success is greatly diminished. Far better to have something written down that paints a compelling picture of where your company will be in the future, after you’ve achieved your desired CMMI Maturity Level.


A well communicated vision does a lot of the hard work of change management for you. Consider the characteristics of a well communicated vision:
  • Motivates and inspires people 
  • Enables you to coordinate large groups of people without using endless directives 
  • Results in the high energy level that is needed to accomplish difficult tasks
  • Establishes a standard of excellence
  • Allows you to move quickly
  • Bridges the present and the future 
Here at Broadsword, we have a workshop that helps organizations formulate their future state vision. In this workshop, we help company leaders relate their vision to what their organization will be like after they’ve adopted and are using new processes. The Vision Workshop teaches executives to develop an effective vision by utilizing the above characteristics.

Keep in mind, it’s not always the CEO who shapes and delivers the vision. Sometimes software or engineering departments are adopting the CMMI, but not the rest of the company. In such cases, it makes sense for a departmental leader to share a vision for his/her department that is aligned with the overarching vision of the CEO.

In your case, Snil, adopting the CMMI is nothing short of transforming the culture of the entire organization. To create a vision for what the organization will look like when all of this change is done, start with the corporate values and mission. Zero in on the aspects of your values and mission that resonate with people emotionally.

This change management philosophy comes from John P. Kotter, the author of “The Heart of Change” (John P Kotter and Dan S. Cohen, Harvard Business School Press, 2002). Kotter’s premise is that people need to physically see the need for change and feel the consequences of not making the change in order for them to think differently, take action and change their behavior. They need to see and feel what the change is going to be all about. Connecting these changes with their emotions is a lot more compelling than giving them a bunch of data to think about and analyze. It’s no surprise that a vision that is essentially a business case is not as compelling as one rooted in the emotions.

So, how to create a vision that will elicit an emotional reaction? If possible, you’ll want to draw upon the five senses, and paint a picture of what it’s going to feel like in this organization in three to five years.

Here are some tips from John P. Kotter about what the vision should be:

  • Simple: No techno babble or jargon.
  • Vivid: A verbal picture is worth a thousand words – use metaphor, analogy, and example.
  • Repeatable: Ideas should be able to be spread by anyone to anyone.
  • Invitational: Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication.

I hope this helps, Snil. Communicating the vision can be challenging but it may be one of the most rewarding aspects of your work as a leader.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Julie Calfin is the Director of Consulting at Broadsword Solutions Corporation. She has years of real world experience using OCM strategy and tactics to help her clients achieve their goals. Julie also uses the CMMI, in partnership with her clients, to set-up, monitor, and sustain process improvement programs.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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