Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Five Minutes with the CMMI Appraiser, Third Question: Do companies need to be “sold” on agileCMMI?

[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 agile methods. Here’s “An Iterative and Incremental Approach to Process Improvement with Jeff Dalton.”]

Hey, Jeff, in terms of working with new clients, do you need to find organizations that embrace the agileCMMI methodology, or do you have to sell it? ~ Bill Fox, 5 Minutes to PI Success

Hey, Bill.  It’s an interesting question in our industry. If you talk to some of my peers, they would tell you about their reluctance to engage with clients who seek "CMMI certification" versus clients who really want to achieve greatness. Staying away from the former and only working with the latter is kind of a thing for some of them.  That's cool.

That approach doesn't fit for me, however.  I believe that everybody deserves a chance to be great, whether they realize it or not. At our company, we refer to this as the “Path to Greatness," and it’s our slogan.

Would we want more companies to come to us already looking for more ways to be great? Sure! But the truth is 50% of clients in our space come to us saying, “I need a CMMI certification,” or “The federal government says I need this piece of paper,” or “I need to be CMMI Level Two or CMMI Level Three.”

We say, that’s OK, business is business! And that’s the difference between this CMMI Appraiser and some other folks. If they don’t already have the “Path to Greatness” mentality, or appreciate the power of agileCMMI, I consider it part of my job to turn them, to change their minds.

But it goes even deeper than that. This is bigger than my company or my clients. I believe it’s our responsibility – all of us – to help companies understand the tremendous advantages of cultivating a strong desire to achieve greatness with the CMMI as one of their tools. As process improvement experts or CMMI consultants, it’s our job to help our clients understand why having a broader, more holistic attitude toward the CMMI is good for them.

See, the more we use the CMMI, and the more we work with companies that are using the CMMI, the more we realize that this is a model that's about how great companies perform.

Rarely does someone come to us with that understanding in advance. They just want a "CMMI certification," and they want to know the cost. My job is to say, “We can help you with this. We can help you get the certification.” I then start working with them and really start to change their attitude about how agileCMMI works and how it can benefit them.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. I would say that I need about three-to-six months with a client to change their cultural understanding of what it is they’re trying to do with CMMI anyway. The great thing is, once you help them believe it, they’re evangelists. They go off and spread the word very quickly among their people.

In my opinion, this is what is missing from our industry. There are a lot of so-called CMMI consultants out there because, frankly, it’s not that hard to put the acronym on your business card. Some of them  are pitching CMMI work, or process improvement work, and doing a disservice to the industry.  They tell clients that the CMMI is all about ratings and certificates.  They never mention paths or greatness.  Without that the CMMI is just an empty shell.

Sadly, there are very few guys and gals in our industry that get this.  But this is the real consulting help we can give to our clients. We can help them understand why this is approach is valuable to them, and how they can use it as a strategic weapon to grow their business.

That’s why I’m so passionate about this, Bill. I consider it part of my duty to educate everyone on that fact. I hope people who read this interview really get that CMMI is not about certifications or achieving levels, although that certainly is an outcome. Instead, the CMMI is about an organizational improvement strategy that can help companies be more powerful and productive.

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

Please check back soon for the Fourth Question: What makes the light come on for a successful agileCMMI adoption?

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 to 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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