Sunday, October 21, 2012

Five Minutes with the CMMI Appraiser, Second Question: What was the genesis of agileCMMI?

[NOTE: Over the next several days, the CMMI Appraiser will be sharing snippets from a conversation with Bill Fox on 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success™. Bill interviewed the CMMI Appraiser about how the CMMI can be used to create resiliency in the agile method. Here’s “An Iterative and Incremental Approach to Process Improvement with Jeff Dalton.”] 

Hey, Jeff, what was the genesis of getting to that strategy of using an iterative and incremental approach that you call agileCMMI? Did you evolve it over time? ~ Bill Fox, 5 Minutes to PI Success 

Hey, Bill.  My background is in consulting. I was with Ernst & Young for ten years, and in software development. In my days at Ernst & Young, when I was doing a lot of business consulting or process consulting, I noted that almost every process implementation was a failure. It’s a little bit like large-scale software development implementations often fail.

I really struggled with this.  I asked, “What’s the reason behind all this?” and I discovered two things. One is that human beings don’t learn in a Waterfall way; they learn in an incremental way. And adopting and using new processes is, above all else, a learning experience. People learning how to do things; people learning that this is good for them; people learning how to change the way that they think, because that’s really what process improvement is all about — changing the culture and changing the way we think.

So going back almost ten years, I really started thinking about, “How do we turn this on its head so that we can make process implementation a learning experience?” and I came to the conclusion that taking an iterative and incremental approach was the way to do that.

The second part of that is, as a software person, I realized that there are so many process experts out there in the industry, talking about Six Sigma, CMMI and process improvement, and ISO, and using all these sort of process-centric languages, and I realized that until we started talking to software developers and project managers in language they can understand—things like object orientation, encapsulation, polymorphism and all the words, phrases, and concepts associated with software development—that they really wouldn’t get what we were talking about.

This agileCMMI method not only takes the first concept of incremental and iterative design and deployment, but it also embraces the second concept, by presenting everything to developers in a language they understand and using UML diagrams and data flow diagram, things they’re used to using, as opposed to trying to shove them into the process world, which is a world they don’t want to be in.

All of these things together sort of brought me to the conclusion that process isn’t overhead.  Process isn’t this foreign thing that we make people do.  Process is another word for engineering.  And we, as a process-proven industry, have done an awful job over the decades really explaining that well enough.

Our agileCMMI methodology solves both of those problems, and we’ve had really good success with it. Clients embrace it wholeheartedly.  Some have even gone and started using it in other parts of their business, like sales, marketing, HR and finance.  It has really been a very successful adventure for us.

Today's five minutes with the CMMI Appraiser is up. 

Please check back soon for the Third Question: Do companies need to be “sold” on embracing agileCMMI?

And don’t miss our next "CMMI: On Location" professional development experience. The CMMI Appraiser is on location in Washington DC on the topic of agileResiliency and using CMMI to make agile stronger at AgileDC conference on October 23rd.

Click it for a ticket, and register here. 

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.

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