Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How do we strike a balance between agile and CMMI training?

CMMI Appraiser, I manage the software division of an ML3 engineering firm in Washington, DC. About a year after going agile, we are dealing with issues of low morale, low productivity and, frankly, a lot of chaos. Our Scrum team is asking for CMMI training, but I’m concerned about too much training, too much oversight and too much overhead. How do we strike a balance? ~ Charles K. 

Charles, great question. Balancing the rigors of CMMI and the flexibility of agile does include a training component, and I’ll talk more about that below. But from the little bit you’ve said about your company culture, I don’t think you start with CMMI training. To strike a balance, start at a higher level. Start with your values.

Why values? One thing you may not realize, Charles: Scrum and CMMI are more akin to organizational behavior models than process models. They can help drive people’s behavior in alignment with your values. This means, if you want to be the best company you can possibly be, you need to be clear on your values.

Just look around if you need proof. Wherever you see low morale, low productivity and a lot of chaos, there is a mismatch between the corporate values and the work the team is trying to perform.

Here’s how it often goes down. Someone in management sends out an email. They make a lot of requests that are out of alignment with what the Scrum teams are trying to do. For instance, they might ask people to speed up, or do a big plan up front, or do other things that a pure agile team is not comfortable with.

They say, “I thought you wanted us to be agile!”

That's just it. You DO want them to be agile. There are tremendous advantages to applying agile methods to continuous improvement. This approach allows you to be rapid, flexible, and able to meet the needs of the customers quicker than your competition might be able to. If management REALLY bought into these agile values, and REALLY cared about seeing them reflected in everyone’s behavior, this would not be an issue.

So here’s the question, Charles: Do you really care?

Clearly so, or you wouldn’t have reached out for help.

Then shouldn’t you be interested in learning as much about adopting agile and CMMI as you possibly can?

Which brings us to training. Your team wants it - go for it! There are many different CMMI training courses that are related to CMMI, Scrum, or general process improvement. You have a lot of options.

The CMMI training class that I am conducting, "Introduction to CMMI-DEV v1.3," on February 11-13, 2015 in Livonia, Michigan is designed with organizations like yours in mind. It helps CMMI-focused companies that are looking for guidance on being lighter and more flexible, as well as agile teams that are still seeking the kind of results they’ve been hoping for. We use real life examples, lessons and proven techniques. Class participants take away – and retain – valuable information they can use on the job, immediately.

That’s the best way to strike a balance, in my opinion, Charles. Set your values, sign up for a class, and learn how to align the team’s behavior with the values. That way, instead of worrying about what they're supposed to do, your folks will just have fun DOING IT! Or, as one old developer put it, “Can't we just make stuff?”

Hope to see you in February.  Click here to sign up for the Intro to CMMI-DEV training class.

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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