Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Will Large-Scale Adopters CHANGE Agile?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, why do you say large adopters are going to change agile, even if their suppliers want it to stay the same? ~ QA professional at DC SPIN meeting

At a recent DC Software Process Improvement Network (DC SPIN) event, where this CMMI Appraiser was speaking on "Agile Resiliency: How CMMI Will Make Agile Thrive and Survive," I took a question from a QA professional on why we should be concerned that large adopters are changing agile. Below is a video clip with my answer, followed by a synopsis of my response. Enjoy!


Danger!  Danger!  Agile will change!

Large adopters such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins, SAIC and Ford will change agile, just as they've influenced other methodologies and models they've embraced. For example, at one time, even Waterfall was once thought to be innovative, helpful and useful. But Waterfall methods evolved and changed to meet the information needs of the large adopters, and a similar fate awaits agile.


When the CMMI came out in 2001, the large-scale early adopters were doing business in a top-heavy, document-focused, command and control manner. They took a similar approach to adopting the CMMI. When they adopted the process model, they continued to do business the way they always did business.

It’s important to note that neither Waterfall, the CMMI, nor any particular process model was ever intended to be top-heavy and document-focused. But that’s the way the large early adopters did business, and thus, that’s how the methodologies and models evolved.


Large adopters are STILL doing business their old way. There are hundreds of companies being influenced by organizations like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and hundreds of contractors being influenced by the Department of Defense.  Now they're saying, "Let's be agile!"

I don't know about you, but that scares me.  In Detroit, we have a saying, “Suppliers don’t change GM. GM changes suppliers.”

As a supplier, you can have all the best intentions and the right way of going about things, but these large new adopters have tremendous weight and momentum behind what they are doing, and you will eventually get changed. Not because they don’t want to be agile, but because they are NOT agile.

  • The large-scale adopters will take a top-down, document heavy, command-and-control approach to adopting agile
  • They will want to be on committees
  • They will want to drive standards

This will not be good for those of us who love agile.


We can fight back by applying the concept of “Agile Resiliency,” a proven strategy for scaling agile by strengthening and reinforcing agile values, methods, and techniques. Agile Resiliency is about integrating the architectural strengths of the CMMI with your agile approach to help you make agile resilient enough to resist the pressure to change – and even scale and thrive.

CMMI-TV is the free video series with the answers you’re looking for about Agile, CMMI and Performance Innovation. As a subscriber, you’ll be notified when we add new episodes to CMMI-TV and you’ll get links to other premium content, as well. Sign up here!

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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified 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 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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