Tuesday, September 9, 2014

SPaMCast Question #5: How do we stop the Agile-CMMI mismatch from happening?

[NOTE: Over the past few weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing snippets 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.]

[NOTE II: In today’s post, Tom is following up on a question about the perceived type mismatch between agile and process improvement models like CMMI, to which we explained that agile and CMMI are all about the same thing: solving problems.]

Jeff, if agile and CMMI are all about solving problems, how do we stop this mismatch from happening? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

Tom, I've become very passionate about this topic over the last five or six years. You're probably familiar with some of the articles and books written about how agile and CMMI can cohesively work together. Several of our agileCMMI publications are available on our web site, which will give people a comprehensive understanding of our view. In a nutshell, there is no conflict between CMMI and agile.  They can -- and do -- peacefully coexist.

Times have changed. Our industry is starting to realize there is no conflict between agile and CMMI. Now, people are starting to say, “You know what? Let's use the CMMI as it was intended to be used, not to get a certification, not as tool to develop processes, which is how in the past so many people use it. No, let’s use CMMI as a tool to make what we're doing already even better.”

And so, the first step is to decide as a company that we want to have these agile values. We want have values of trust and cohesion and all of these things that are driven by the agile manifesto.

Once we have decided this, then we need to implement the solution. And this is exactly where the CMMI becomes so important, because now we've got this really rich and robust tool set. In fact, we’ve got the richest and most robust tool set in the world for this subject. So let’s make the decision to use it to improve and strengthen what we have in place. We can have predictability instead of chaos and all of the wonderful things that CMMI was intended to solve. 

Notice I didn't say, "does solve," because so many companies have taken an inappropriate approach to adopting CMMI. But with a proper adoption of the Model, you can bring robustness to whatever process it is that you decided to implement.

And so I've made a few adjustments with how I talk about getting CMMI and agile to work together. I've changed my language so that I don't often use the word “process” any more when talking to clients. Now I use the word “behavior.”  I'm saying, "Let’s use this CMMI to increase the resilience of the behaviors that we want to see.”

I'll give you an example. Let's say a company would like their team to use Planning Poker (which by the way I think is a great tool).  We’ll use the CMMI to ensure that Planning Poker is giving us the results we want to get, as well as the repeatability of these results. Our focus will be on making sure that everybody's trained and everybody's using it.  That way, we can get maximum value out of CMMI, which means we're changing behaviors and doubling or tripling the productivity of our people.

There's a lot more to share on this topic.  As I said, I've very passionate about it!  For those who would like to know more, we’re presenting the following upcoming webinars on the subject, and would welcome their participation:

Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives
Thursday, September 11, 2014 from 1-2PM EDT.

Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives” (in conjunction with QUEST 2015)
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 from 12-1PM EDT

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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