Monday, July 29, 2013

Why should we care if management cares about how we work? We're Agile!

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, we’re a self-sufficient Agile team. What should we care if management cares about how we’re doing our work? ~ Michael R.

Dear Readers,

After our recent webinar, "Agile Resiliency: Scaling Agile So That It Thrives and Survives," we received many questions about utilizing the architectural strengths of the CMMI to make Agile more resilient to change and large-scale corporate pressure. As promised, I will have been addressing those questions here. ~ the CMMI Appraiser 

Hey, Michael,

I believe you are reacting to my comment on the webinar that, for an organization to be successful in using the CMMI to strengthen Agile, your management needs to care about how you do your work.

That’s not a given. When I first start working with companies engaged in performance improvement or process improvement planning, I often hear management say things like: “I don’t have an interest in how our people are working, I just want them to work,” or “I don’t have time to review how our processes are working or how innovative we are.”

In my opinion, this is a big mistake. How we do our work is everything, and I tell them so. And I’m telling you, too, Michael: If you don’t have a well defined WAY that you do your work, it’s like wearing a boat anchor on your back that you are forced to carry through every single project.

What do I mean by boat anchor? It’s really darn hard to do the most basic things. Important details fall through the cracks. Projects are late. We have disorganization projects, and some projects don’t even start.  Important events don’t happen. Or projects get stopped and cancelled. The boat anchor creates so much weight that you can barely deliver a product.

Now, I understand that many Agile teams are like yours, Michael. You prefer to operate in an environment where engineers don’t tell management what they need to know to run the business. You may even be one of those Agile teams that insists on zero command and control. Perhaps you have complained to your managers, “You just don't understand what we're doing.”

The problem with this is it makes management feel even more out of the loop. Then they want to institute even more oversight. That’s not what you want. You want them to care about the way you work – what we call “the Way” your work gets done – not change it. This is especially for an Agile team. You need management to understand your Way of doing things, and how it meshes with your Way of doing business as a company.

The way this CMMI appraiser sees it, defining the Way you work is the most important thing you can do. How we work, how innovative we are, how organized we are -- all of these factors are what makes us a great company, as opposed to a company that is just a good company.

A good company has great people. A good company has great technology. A great company has great people, great technology, AND they have a Way of doing business.

What’s in it for you? When your Way is well defined, when your processes are shipshape, the boat anchor comes off your back. You get to all do the things that you signed up for, which was to write cool software, work with great clients and create amazing products.

You can’t do that with a boat anchor on your back.

For those who may have missed the webinar, you can watch the REPLAY of "Agile Resiliency: Scaling Agile So That It Thrives and Survives” any time.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He 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.

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