Monday, October 1, 2012

As we adopt the CMMI, how do we improve internal communications?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, since we launched our scientific, engineering, and technology applications company in 2005, we have grown rapidly, despite having a constant challenge with rework. Now that we are adopting the CMMI, we realize that our true challenge is not eliminating rework, but improving the way we do all of our work, including the way we communicate. On that topic, how do you recommend we go about improving our internal communications? ~ Jenn B. 

Jenn, It sounds like you have had a major breakthrough in understanding the true power of CMMI which is improving the way you do your work. A discipline known as Organizational Change Management (OCM) is a specialty of Julie Calfin, Broadsword’s Director of Consulting. Julie does amazing work with companies that are undergoing large scale business transformation like yours. Take it away, Julie! ~ The CMMI Appraiser 

Thank you, CMMI Appraiser!

Jenn, how cool that adopting the CMMI has helped you see that the way you do your work is what’s most important. To improve internal communications, I recommend that you create a Communication Plan to disseminate key messages to your stakeholders in a timely and effective manner. Here is a free template:

I always encourage companies to use this tool after they do their stakeholder analysis (see How do I identify stakeholders for adopting our CMMI-based process improvement program?). The reason is, you need to know who is impacted by the changes that your organization is implementing before you can effectively communicate with them.

Populating the columns of the Communication Plan is fairly straight-forward. Start with audience:

  • Who do you need to reach?
  • What messages do they need to receive?
  • Who needs to send the messages?
  • What reactions do we want? In other words, what is the desired outcome? What behaviors do we desire from them? Do we want them to take action? If so, what action?

Next, let’s take a look at the medium, materials, frequency and timing.

  • Medium – what type of communication channel will you use to disseminate the key message? This might be an email, post on a web site portal, a newsletter, a virtual meeting, a Daily Scrum or an all-hands meeting.
  • Materials – these are the physical pieces of collateral, the email attachments handouts, cards or buttons that accompany the message.
  • Frequency of communication – some of these messages are delivered regularly (e.g., monthly). Others are one-time only messages.
  • Timing – Once we’ve drafted all of the key messages we want to send, we think about when they need to be disseminated to enable the desired outcomes to occur at the times in the Process Improvement Program (or other business transformation initiative) when we want them to occur. We may indicate the week or the month in which the communication takes place, or identify a specific date.

The next piece, the Key Message column, is the heart of the Communication Plan. This column allows you to assign one key message per communication. This is important to your team. Remember, it’s no small task you’re asking for. They are learning new behaviors that can improve their performance and help you be a great company. So plan well.

When you are done populating the Communication Plan template, return to your Stakeholder Analysis and Program Plan. Compare these, and confirm the following:

  • Have you touched all the people listed in the Stakeholder Analysis?
  • Are your communications timed to happen at the right time throughout the CMMI Process Improvement Program?

A Communication Plan can be a useful road map for disseminating the information that stakeholders need to understand and adopt the changes that their organization is implementing. Planning internal communications in a way that aligns with your organization’s CMMI Process Improvement Program will accelerate the adoption of the new processes. Timely, informative messages will also eliminate some of the confusion and change resistance that stakeholders feel along the way.

Good luck!

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 for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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