Monday, August 25, 2014

SPaMCast Question #3: Is there a type mismatch organizationally between agile and process improvement methods like CMMI?

[NOTE: Over the past several days, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.] 

Jeff, One of the terms that you used for the imbalance between the way managers versus developers see agile was a “bottom-up, top-down mismatch.” How do we start to take that apart and make sure that there's not a mismatch but some sort of meeting of the minds? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

That's a fantastic question, Tom. Yes, there is a type mismatch organizationally between agile, where agility is an aspirational concept, and process improvement methods like CMMI, which are operational in nature. On the one hand, you have engineers at the lowest level of the organization trying to push values uphill. And on the other you have the C-suite pushing down the process improvement Model without getting the team to own it.

So we have this type mismatch of aspirational versus operational, and I'll tell you, Tom, it ain’t pretty!

Let me give you an example. The agile manifesto guides us to adopt certain values. Those values, as we all know, are to collaborate with our customers, to have openness, to have courage, to have trust in our organization, to be iterative and incremental. These are values that companies need to adopt. But here’s the problem: We're seeing these values being adopted at the team level, whereas they really need to be adopted in the C-suite. The CEOs, CIOs, CTOs of companies should adopt the values and drive them down throughout the organization so that the culture of the company adopts those values. But that's not what we're seeing. We're seeing it being adopted at the lowest levels of the company – and they are trying to push those values uphill. That’s not sustainable.

Conversely, process improvement methods like CMMI, which are operational in nature not aspirational, are being driven from the C-suite, and not being driven at the lowest part of the organization where the operational activities take place.

This is our great challenge. As an industry, organizationally, we are inverted. This adds tons of overhead and unneeded activity. To fix it we have to start working with our executive teams to start, not on agile, not on CMMI, but on values. We have to start working with them to help them really understand that it's values that drive everything in the company, and values are way more than a poster on the wall.

Our values go right to the core of why we do what we do, and what kind of company we want to be.  That's why it's so important for the C-suite to get this right.

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.

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