Monday, January 21, 2013

Why get "jazzed" about using the CMMI?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, why are you so jazzed about using the CMMI for software process improvement? ~ from a recent conversation with the CEO of a San Diego electrical engineering firm

Dear Readers,

This CMMI Appraiser has never been one to hide his enthusiasm for the things I care about. So I wasn’t too surprised, the other day, when the leader of an electrical engineering firm in San Diego asked why I was so “jazzed” about software process improvement, using the CMMI as one of our tools.

I thought his choice of words was very appropriate. He’s right: I am jazzed! And here’s why.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I started my career journey as a classical musician. Although I ultimatley earned my degree in Computer Science, my first was in Music Performance.  Today, while I still love to play music,  I spend most of my time working with CMMI and helping companies improve performance. And I also play music semi-professionally whenever I can.

Making music is a wonderful metaphor for building software products.

If you read my article in Cutter IT Journal (download it HERE) you know that my favorite musician is Charlie "Bird" Parker. Bird was widely acclaimed as a genius for his ability to improvise  freely with astounding dexterity and technical accuracy. For Bird (and for me) music is about engineering the craft.

Same goes for solving business problems – whether you are designing software, delivering electrical engineering solutions, or producing any other kind of work product. It’s about engineering your work. First, you need to learn the theory and history. Then you need to adhere to some sort of structured discipline (for musicians, it’s music theory and practicing; for engineers, it could be using the guidance provided in the CMMI framework). Then, you need the artistic sensibility to apply your own brand of creativity (your "Way").  Engineering requires a healthy dose of both.

This is the formula for putting yourself on the path to greatness, and no one did it better than Charlie Parker.

Without an understanding of how great accomplishments are achieved, nothing changes. Software projects are late or over-budget. Clients are unhappy. Top talent burns out and leaves. Profits go unrealized, and opportunities are lost.

Same goes for making music. If nothing changes in ones approach to the craft, the audience boos you off the stage, and you may never get booked again.

That’s why I’m “jazzed” about getting this right.

An excellent example of an organization that gets it right is CutTime Productions ( Led by former-Detroit Symphony Orchestra bassist Rick Robinson, CutTime Productions is an artistic venture committed to connecting curious but inexperienced music lovers with the beauty and power of classical music in new and innovative ways.

Broadsword has been a supporter of CutTime for some time now. We help them cover the costs of traveling the country and introducing their music and methods nationally. It's rewarding to see them make classical music accessible to a wider range of new listeners, particularly young people.

CutTime has the ability to apply science and discipline, and layer creativity on top of it. In that sense, CutTime Productions does for classical music what Charlie Parker did for Jazz, and what Broadsword does for software engineering.

We support this effort because we love music. We love innovation. But more importantly – and this applies to any organization in any industry – we love to help people apply art and science on the path to greatness.

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.

To download eBooks about CMMI, visit Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.


Himanshu said...

Reminded me of my old CASIO keyboard which i used to play while studying physics and thinking about overall process improvement in my college days! Thanks for another refreshing post...

Anonymous said...

Right on Himanshu!

Read my article from Cutter IT Journal on CMMI and Scrum - there's a lot of music references!