Monday, September 15, 2014

SPaMCast Question #7: What one big thing can we do to become a great company?

[NOTE: Over the past few weeks, this 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, give us the key to being a great company. Tell us what this one big thing is and we’ll do it. Is this one big thing CMMI? Is this one big thing agile? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

Tom, when people ask me what one BIG thing they need to do to become a great company, my response is always the same: It’s not about big things. It's about LITTLE things.

For example, in my travels, when I meet CEOs, VPs, Directors, and Quality Assurance Managers from a wide variety of companies, large and small, I ask, “What would it be like if everybody on our team knew exactly what was expected of them?”

This is one of those little things that cause people to shake their heads and say, “What do you mean by that?”

And I say, well, think about what would happen if you walked through the company and you literally ask ten developers, “How long are your sprints? How many sprints in a release? When do you do your retrospectives?” If you just ask those simple questions, you'll get ten different answers. This happens everywhere because it is a very typical kind of behavior. And it is an example of the kind of behavior that can be improved with one single practice in the CMMI.

But the goal is not necessarily to adopt CMMI or embrace agile.  The goal is to consolidate the mental model of the members of your team so that everybody is on the same page. It's a little thing, but if we can do that, we can enhance productivity dramatically, without a lot of overhead.

In the context of agile, the CMMI helps you strengthen your way of doing what you do, by helping you build a resilient framework. By embracing lessons of CMMI with agile – or Waterfall, Spiral, or whatever your methodology of choice is – and building a resilient framework, you move closer to being a great company.

Those interested in learning more about using CMMI and agile to be a great company are invited to participate in our upcoming Webinar:

Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives” (in conjunction with QUEST 2015)
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 from 12-1PM EDT.
Click here to register for the webinar.

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.

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