Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Building Airplanes and Observing Process Infrastructure

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, when building your own airplane, do you use process improvement methods for that? ~ Bill Fox, 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success

Today’s episode of CMMI-TV was filmed at a recent "5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success" (5PI) Meet-up in Virginia, where this CMMI Appraiser presented on “Agile Resiliency.” Host Bill Fox wondered if I used process improvement methods for my airplane building project. Below is a video clip with my answer, followed by a synopsis of my response. Enjoy!



There is a strong correlation between the powers of observation demonstrated by a good FAA Inspector, and those of a good CMMI Appraiser, regarding the collection of process performance information.


The airplane inspector walks into the shop where I am building my airplane, looks around, sees that the shop is in order, and says, “You’re good.”

My father is unhappy about this, and says, “You know, Jeff is going to fly in this airplane. How can you tell that everything’s done right?”

The instructor says, “See those bins there? There are about 50 rivet bins, and everything is neatly labeled with a number. Nothing is scratched out. They are all in order of rivet size. See this floor? You could eat off this floor. See those parts? They are hung on the wall and there are drawings around where they hang, to make sure they are in the right place. There is nothing wrong with this airplane!”

Of course, he digs a little deeper....but comes to the same conclusion.


This is similar to what a good Lead Appraiser does when conducting both the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) SCAMPI appraisals and agile assessments. He or she looks around at the evidence, including:
  • Scrum team room with “information radiators” that can "radiate" information about 50+ practices from the CMMI
  • White board covered with sticky notes, with risks identified, carefully prioritized ('what keeps you up at night') with their sources associated with them
  • Photographs and drawings
  • Tours
  • Presentations about projects before the start of the appraisal
  • Comments in the code
  • Sketches on napkins (as long as they are clean, can be scanned, stored, retrieved, shared, and used to make other projects better)

Building good software is all about issues that are outside of the methodology you use.

Building good software is all about infrastructure, and setting up the infrastructure so that you can perform the work reliably and effectively – and be productive without a lot of chaos and headaches.

In creating a resilient environment for building good software (or airplanes), you can take a model like the CMMI and a methodology like Agile, and mash them together, and get some really cool infrastructure out of it.

ABOUT CMMI-TV: CMMI-TV is a place where we can add value to the engineering and software development community by offering advice on engineering strategy, performance innovation and software process improvement. If you find this useful, please 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 www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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