Thursday, October 24, 2013

Do we need agileCMMI if we’re already a great company?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, we keep hearing from our biggest customer that adopting the CMMI is helpful for Agile contractors like us because it can make us a great company. Well, we think we’re already a great company! Do we really need to worry about combining Agile with CMMI? ~ Zino, Quality Assurance

Hey, Zino,

Great question! I love that you see yourselves as a great company. But allow me to ask: How do you know?

How do you know you’re a great company? Are you good at what you do? How do you know? How do you determine your goodness or greatness? How well is your team performing? When you ask for feedback, are you getting the truth – or only what you want to hear?

A lot of CMMI Appraisers would take a comment like yours – “We’re a great company” – and they would say, “Show me your metrics for understanding project performance.”

I like to cut to the chase. That’s why I asked, “Are you good at what you do?”

It’s very important in QA to be able to answer that question for your team. But it doesn’t stop with you. You want your bosses to be able to answer that question, too.

So here’s the next question: How do you communicate your greatness to the non-agile leaders in the organization?

Non-agile leaders are in accounting and marketing, as well as management. For different reasons, they want the same thing your customer wants. They want to know how you know you are good at what you do. And that means you must communicate in THEIR language, not yours.

Anyone who has been in management can tell you that communication is critical. In my career, I have been a CIO, CTO and a VP of Service Delivery for a couple of large consulting firms. Having been in that office, I can tell you, these are questions we ask.

For example, let’s say we’ve asked you to do agile projects. We might sit down with you and say, “Zeno, we’ve invested in agile. Are we getting anything out of our investment? Help us understand. Does the way you do your work enable us to deliver better service to our customers?”

Clearly, goodness and greatness have nothing to do with agile. They have everything to do with project performance, however. I don’t care if is an agile project or a Waterfall project. You can get great results from both, and both are appropriate for different kinds of environments. But regardless of the values, methods or tools you are using, if I were your manager, I’d want answers:

“How is it going?  Are you any good at this? How do we know?”

If you can’t answer that, then, yes, you do need the structure of the CMMI to strengthen agile. Without it, you won’t survive in the agile community, because the big spenders are going to come along and crush you.

There's nothing great about that.  

Need more info about utilizing the architectural strengths of the CMMI to make agile more resilient to change and large-scale corporate pressure? Check out our upcoming Webinar: Agile Resiliency: Scaling Agile So That It Thrives & Survives,” on Friday, October 25, 2013 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM (EDT). And be sure to tell a friend!

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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