Sunday, December 15, 2013

13 unlucky ways to approach the CMMI … you have been warned!

Dear Readers,

Every year at this time, as days get shorter and nights grow longer, people all over the world light candles and string lights to make their spirits bright. But this year, as one especially dark day looms, we need more good cheer than ever. It’s Friday the 13th, 2013, double thirteens and twice the bad luck for the superstitious! Eeek!

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that this CMMI Appraiser likes to keep things light. Never one to dwell on fear, I prefer to warn software and engineering professionals about things that could go wrong, so that they can be avoided. My goal is to help you stay on the brightly lit path to greatness, no matter what time of year.

Now, in my experience, there’s only one thing unluckier than Friday the 13th, and that’s trying to “implement” the CMMI. Why? Because the CMMI is not something you implement. The CMMI is better interpreted as a framework, a set of guidelines and a series of questions that help you learn more about your company and the way you do your work.

Taking an improper “implementation” approach to adopting the CMMI can be worse than having a black cat cross your path while walking under a ladder AND breaking a mirror, all at the same time! It ALWAYS leads to process failure.

Fear not. To help you spot the dangers and avoid the perils of an improper CMMI adoption, here’s a handy list of 13 extremely UNLUCKY ways to approach the CMMI:

  1. Buying a tool that promises “CMMI compliance in six months or less”
  2. Hiring a "CMMI Preparation" consultant who is helping you "create the evidence"
  3. Having no idea why you’re “doing CMMI,” but you’re doing it anyway
  4. Retaining a CMMI consultant to “do CMMI” to you
  5. Thinking that the CMMI is about getting a CMMI certificate or achieving a CMMI Maturity Level, although that certainly can be an outcome
  6. Listening to a so-called CMMI Consultant who says things like, “The CMMI makes you do it.” 
  7. Listening to a so-called CMMI Consultant who says, “The CMMI Institute makes you do it.”
  8. Two minutes after achieving Level Two, asking your team, “When is Level Three?”
  9. Saying, “We need to go right to Level Five (or Four, or Three)”
  10. Ordering your team to go “get a level” by Tuesday
  11. Failing to capture data about whether or not your team is benefiting from the CMMI
  12. Blindly following your parent company’s binder full of processes (we've got "binders full of 'em!")
  13. Having no faith that new behaviors can be learned

The horrors! Now the good news. To avoid bad luck of an improper CMMI adoption, simply change the way you think about adopting the CMMI.

Here are four PROPER approaches to adopting the CMMI that are sure to bring good luck:
  1. Thinking of the CMMI as an organizational improvement model that can help your company be more powerful and productive
  2. Thinking of the CMMI as an excellent tool to improve software and engineering product development, and one that is extremely useful in lighter, agile environments, as well as in larger, structured organizations
  3. Thinking of the CMMI as a model that's about how great companies perform, regardless of their size or industry
  4. Thinking of the CMMI as an ongoing celebration, a framework for being joyful in the quest for becoming a great company!
So you see, you don’t have to be lucky to get the benefit of the CMMI. You just need to understand that if you focus on CMMI certification, you end up losing all of the value of the CMMI. You end up chasing paper, not improvements.

Instead, I urge everyone to focus on the fact that the value of the CMMI comes from the transformation of the culture of your company. Understand that the CMMI is about changing the way we behave, so that we build products that are better than other companies that are building similar products.

That’s the best and brightest approach to adopting the CMMI … on this day, or any other.

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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