Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Art of CMMI: Variations in Tactics

[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: Weak Points and Strong."  We're excited that Shawn has agreed to share segments of his article with you here on "Ask the CMMI Appraiser"]

Continuing the ‘Art of CMMI’ discussion, let’s rattle our sabers with the Art of War’s eighth chapter, ‘Variations in Tactics’.  The theme of the eighth chapter focuses on varying one’s tactics to meet complex and changing situations. 

The student of war who is unversed in the art of war of varying his plans, even though he is acquainted with the Five Advantages, will fail to make the best use of his men.
The ‘Five Advantages’ are obvious military precepts – ‘short roads are to be followed’, etc.

How do we, as process advocates and managers, help our organization to vary its tactics?  Being creative and using alternate approaches improves the flexibility and maturity of our process improvement environment. Following CMMI processes and providing typical work products is good – providing nuanced and creative approaches shows mastery.

How can an organization ‘vary its tactics’ though?  There are countless fronts to this war, here are some examples:

Communication and stakeholder participation; stand-ups and meetings:  As long as the exchange is productive and artifacts are produced, meetings may take any number of variations.  Is it a nice day out?  Not too many bugs?  Have your staff meeting outside!

I’ll always remember one of my manager’s approaches to a ‘curmudgeon’ – a grumpy person who was always unduly negative in meetings.  My manager brought a squirt bottle to our meeting and squirted Mr. Negative every time he said something non-productive.  The practice was somewhat … short-lived, but it brought needed insight to our meeting process though creativity.

Process improvements can be creatively piloted and communicated.  I know an organization that put sticky notes throughout the building to herald the upcoming formal release of their quality assurance program and plan.  Notes on peoples’ desks, cars, lunches, walls, windows, and clothing announced the upcoming plan to all stakeholders (and everyone else).

Training: Jeff excels at this – making training fun.  Why start off on the incredible CMMI journey with dull tedium?  That’s not what CMMI is about. Jeff’s training includes fun participation, CMMI games and haikus!

Alternative approaches: Devising alternative approaches to processes and typical work products helps your organization tailor its CMMI process improvement journey.  Such processes need to be reviewed and guided by a CMMI process improvement mentor.
In my project’s fast-paced rapid-application development environment, we leverage our web expertise to create our own management tools.

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

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

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