Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy New Year, CMMI Style!

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, as a newly promoted executive of a large New York IT engineering firm, my goal in 2013 is to get CMMI certified. What are some of the behaviors you would recommend that our leadership team adopt to make this goal a reality? ~ Chuck A.

Chuck, congratulations on your promotion! Before I address the behaviors you need to adopt, please allow this CMMI Appraiser to lift a glass in your honor, wishing you and yours a very happy New Year and a prosperous CMMI program in 2013.

Now, Chuck, you are on the right track when you ask what behaviors you need to adopt. To paraphrase a wise man, fortunate are those who understand that the CMMI is about behavioral modeling for solving business problems, for they shall have a successful CMMI adoption. That’s why this CMMI appraiser always encourages executives to think of the CMMI as a tool to help improve the techniques and practices, as opposed to an end in itself.

But what to make of this “my goal is to get CMMI certified” statement? IMHO, focusing certification isn't quite the right goal. Do you really want my honest recommendation? Just resolve to be a great company. The certification will follow....I promise!

To help you reach this more useful New Year’s Resolution, I will share some of the behaviors you asked for. These behaviors are provided to us by the most important part of the CMMI, the Generic Practices (or GPs). There are 12 of them, and they are the responsibility of executives like you who are leading the CMMI effort, so study them well!

1) I Resolve to Establish an Organizational Policy (Generic Practice 2.1) – It may not seem obvious, but GP 2.1 is very pivotal to the success of your program (and your engineers). It guides you to provide a clear and unambiguous setting of expectations by management that the employees will use the process as it has been written and defined.

2) I Resolve to Plan the Process (Generic Practice 2.2) – The second GP guides us to establish and maintain the plan for performing the process. This is another very pivotal GP in the model. With GP2.2, we develop an infrastructure where all processes we expect people to use are planned for. The idea is that we can expect people to do things all we want, but unless it's also planned for, it ain't gonna happen.

3) I Resolve to Provide Resources (Generic Practice 2.3) – The third GP guides us to provide adequate resources for performing the process, developing the work products, and providing the services of the process. In other words, give your team the tools and environmental resources for the processes to be useful, so your team can be successful.

4) I Resolve to Assign Responsibility (Generic Practice 2.4) – The fourth GP guides us to assign responsibility and authority for performing the process, developing the work products, and providing the services of the process.

5) I Resolve to Train People (Generic Practice 2.5) – The fifth GP guides us to train the people performing or supporting the process. In other words, if you expect your Project Managers to be efficient at estimating and planning, you need to train them on estimating and planning.  You may also enroll them in CMMI training.

6) I Resolve to Control Work Products (Generic Practice 2.6) – GP2.6 guides us to place designated work products of the process under appropriate levels of configuration management. GP2.6 basically provides a double layer of protection for you. First, it offers you guidance to manage all of your reams of documents, databases, and other work products that are produced as a result of running a successful project. Second, it provides guidance on how to store those documents and work products, and manage them in some kind of repository or system.

7) I Resolve to Identify and Involve Relevant Stakeholders (Generic Practice 2.7) – The seventh GP guides us to identify and involve relevant stakeholders of the process as planned. GP2.7 is another pivotal practice. It advocates the idea that if you identify and INVOLVE all the relevant stakeholders, and PLAN for their involvement, you'll increase the chances that they will show up and do what you want them to do.

8) I Resolve to Monitor and Control the Process (Generic Practice 2.8) – The eighth generic practice guides us to monitor and control the process against the plan for performing the process and take appropriate corrective action. GP2.8 is all about answering one simple question: "How do you know?" How do you know if the process works? How would you make it better? Are things improving? Getting worse? Static? This is a very pivotal practice - maybe the most pivotal. This gives us data about how well the process works. If we don't know that - why are we doing this?

9) I Resolve to Objectively Evaluate Adherence (Generic Practice 2.9) – The ninth generic practice (GP2.9) guides us to objectively evaluate adherence of the process against its process description, standards, and procedures, and address noncompliance. In other words, GP2.9 is the act of capturing the data about adherence and reporting it out. This implies some level of oversight. Are engineers using the process or not. If they are not, why not? What’s the problem? How can we fix it? What did we do wrong? How could they get more value out of it?

10) I Resolve to Review Status with Higher Level Management (Generic Practice 2.10) – The tenth GP guides us to review status with higher-level management. But that doesn't mean what you think it means. It means management needs to care. In other words, do you care about the right things? Are you looking at the right indicators? Do you even know what the right metrics are? I’ll give you a hint. The right metrics should help you understand things like: How happy are our customers? Do we have a lot of rework here? How productive are our employees? What kind of defects do we have?

11) I Resolve to Establish a Defined Process (Generic Practice 3.1) – GP3.1 guides us to establish a defined process. This takes some explaining. There’s more to GP3.1 than establishing a defined process. GP3.1 is really guiding us to define how each process is going to be performed within the context of the project.

12) I Resolve to Collect Process Related Experiences (Generic Practice 3.2) – GP3.2 guides us to collect process related experiences – or ways of “doing it better” next time. This is the last Generic Practice, and another pivotal practice. GP3.2 is about making the process better, based on data and experience. In other words, ask yourself what is the “experience” of the project? This is the lesson we learned from implementing the process.

So that's what it takes, Chuck.  Resolve first to be a great company. Focus on the behaviors that make you a great company, and use the CMMI as one of the tools that can help get you there. Not only will you achieve CMMI Level 2 or CMMI Level 3 as a natural result … not only will you drive the software process improvement results you are looking for … but you’ll be on the path to greatness in 2013. And that’s a goal worth attaining.

Happy New Year!

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 engineering strategy, performance innovation , software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

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