Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Will agile ever scale?

Dear Mr. CMMI Appraiser, truthfully, will agile ever scale? ~ Bohee R.

Dear Bohee, that’s what we all want, right? As engineering and software professionals who care about software process improvement, engineering strategy and performance innovation, we understand how useful agile values, methods and techniques are for solving business problems. Scaling agile across the enterprise is the Holy Grail for agile teams.

Now, some people complain that agile just doesn’t work across the enterprise. In their opinion, agile doesn’t scale. Even when they hear about a tool like the CMMI, which was designed to help companies scale the way they work, they are reluctant to take the first step.

But that’s the cool thing about the CMMI. When adopted properly, it’s the perfect tool for making agile scale across the enterprise. The CMMI gives you the ability to make immediate improvements that strengthen agile in your company, which shores it up for wider adoption.

How does CMMI strengthen agile? By helping you know more about the way you work.

Knowledge is important. Any smart engineering or project manager would agree with that. Knowing how to do something and knowing what to do are very important parts of succeeding, and making the customers happy.

CMMI accelerates that process. It jump starts your knowledge, and makes you much more successful, much quicker.

Example? Let’s pick one of our agile values that we want to scale across the enterprise. Let’s say we want to scale our value of having an agile way of dealing with risk.

The CMMI guides us to ask questions that will help us learn more about how we work. Specific to this value, it guides us to gain more knowledge about the way we deal with risk. So the first CMMI question we need to ask, as we roll this out, is the following:

“What are the methods and techniques that we’re going to use to support the value of having an agile way of dealing with risk?”

It starts with our values. We want to approach risk management iteratively and incrementally. We want to get those issues of risk when they’re young, and deal with them in small pieces. We want to prioritize them and get them out of the way.

The CMMI helps us decide HOW we will do what we WANT to do.

So let’s say Scrum is the tool we are going to use to deal with risk iteratively and incrementally. We plan to execute a Daily Stand-up, where we’re going to be talking about risk.

This is a resilient way of dealing with risk. Our Techniques (Daily Stand-up) support our Methods (Scrum) which support our Values (being a company that deals iteratively and incrementally with issues and risks).

Notice the traceability. Everything we do traces back to why we’re doing it. In this way, the CMMI helps us define HOW we do what we do. It strengthens agile and makes it more resilient, so that it can scale.

You see, Bohee, scaling agile is enabled by defining our agile values, methods and techniques, and making them stronger and more resistant to change.  The CMMI helps us do that. It puts the Holy Grail of scaling agile within reach.

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, including the complete “CMMU Users Stories,” visit Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.

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