Friday, February 15, 2013

The Art of CMMI: Weak Points and Strong

[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 jump into the fray with the Art of War’s sixth chapter, ‘Weak Points and Strong’.  The theme of this chapter is attacking your enemy where it is weakest. *Sigh*, no, the ‘weak point’ is not between your manager’s ears –  as process improvement managers, our ‘enemy’ and ‘weak spots’ are process debt, bottlenecks and poor engineering. Such engineering obstacles must be identified and addressed.

To begin the skirmish, identify and analyze organizational weaknesses. This corresponds to Sun Tzu’s guidance:

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.

What is the organization struggling with?  What has management identified as areas for improvement or focus?  These questions are addressed with the CMMI’s Organizational Process Focus process area.  In SP 1.3 (Identify the Organization’s Process Improvements), the process engineering group meets the enemy’s weaknesses head-on: Candidate improvements are analyzed to determine specific areas of focus.

Be nimble and creative in your analysis as well as your subsequent proposed solution (later, in OPF: SG 2 and 3): Every engineering obstacle (weakness!) will be unique. Thus, Sun Tzu:

Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.


He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.

Your analysis should pose such questions as: Does the improvement address an underlying organizational weakness – or just a symptom? How will the improvement benefit my organization – is it worth pursuing?  Can I leverage my organization’s strengths?  Thoughtfully answering these questions will help battle weaknesses in your organization. 

Your organization is only as strong as its weakest link.

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.

No comments: