Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Art of CMMI: Laying Plans

[Our good friend Shawn Rapjack, CMMI expert and seasoned consultant, is back with an interesting treatise on CMMI based on Sun Tzu's "The Art of War.” We're excited that Shawn has agreed to share segments of his article with you here on "Ask the CMMI Appraiser"]

Laying Plans

CMMI, CMMI Appraisal, CMMI Consulting, CMMI Training, CMMI Certification

Reinventing the wheel is never wise.  As process improvement professionals, we strive to establish sound engineering strategies, to help our coworkers work more efficiently, to provide mentorship, and to be sound, diplomatic mediators. 

But such noble pursuits have already been invented and successfully employed – thousands of years ago by Sun Tzu.  (Talk about GP 3.2!!!!)

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military strategist and philosopher who authored the Art of War – a broad strategic masterpiece spanning military training, strategies and tactics – but also governance and social interaction. This book has been the bulwark of military institutions and the foundation of business strategies.  But let’s focus on its application to CMMI and process improvement!

The Art of War is divided into 13 chapters – for this, our first blog in a series, let’s discuss Chapter One, ‘Laying Plans’.

Sun Tzu knew that planning was where the ‘war’ was fought – and he provides us with many teachings to this effect.  This excerpt summarizes the Laying Plans chapter nicely:
The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.  Thus do many calculations lead to victory and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all!  It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.
So, in our CMMI implementation experiences, promoting initial organizational planning is vital. The process team must establish and analyze business goals; implement organizational change management; and define / tailor engineering solutions.

Project plans must be written and tailored, reviewed, agreed upon and updated.  Such plans are valuable resources for reference, but importantly, it’s the thought that goes into them that’s key – this is where the ‘general is making his calculations’. 

Providing resources and creating estimates (more important calculations!) are crucial to winning your campaign!  Good estimation anticipates and counters many problems before they appear.  Cost and schedule estimates must be comprehensive and well-considered – for Sun Tzu, this would have been a matter of life and death, for us, this is a matter of project success.

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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead AppraiserCertified 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 and performance improvement program.

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