Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Art of CMMI: Attack by Stratagem

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

Continuing our Sun Tzu and CMMI discussion, let’s triumphantly march into the Art of War’s third chapter, ‘Attack by Stratagem’, which discusses leadership and organizational awareness.

Focused leadership provides a strong foundation for implementing process change within an organization.  Such responsibility rides on the shoulders of the organization’s manager (the ‘general’!) who must take personal ownership for implementing innovative engineering solutions and the new ways of thinking that CMMI fosters. The manager has the guidance of the process improvement team, but must set the tone for program and process improvement success.  Such leadership is summarized by Sun Tzu:

The general is the bulwark of the State; if the bulwark is complete at all points; the State will be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State will be weak.

Let’s look a bit more closely at some of the mentorship that Sun Tzu has kindly provided us:

 There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:

·       By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.   Know the company.  A manager must be aware of the organization’s resources, funding, manager abilities, and schedule commitments before important decisions can be considered.

·       By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldier's minds.  Well, we don’t want restlessness! Leverage the process improvement team’s process experience to promote logical engineering solutions and change management – this may differ from, but should complement, the organization’s decision-making process and governance style.

·       By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.

      Know the managers.  Specifically, choose the right people for the right jobs. Plan for needed skills and training, but also recognize individual abilities and strengths.

I’m sure we have all heard of the following saying, keeping in mind from our previous blogs that the ‘enemy’ is process debt and poor engineering solutions:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Adopting and implementing CMMI provides an organization with the perfect opportunity for self-discovery.  What does this mean?  Companies adopting CMMI processes learn:

·       How different parts of their organization can interact cohesively.
·       What their organization is doing awkwardly, i.e., identify areas for improvement.
·       That their team is capable of great things!  This builds confidence:  ‘Hey, we tackled CMMI ML 2!!  What’s next?”

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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