Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SPaMCast Question #8: How important is training for organizations that want to develop Agile Resiliency?

[NOTE: Over the past several weeks, 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, in your presentation about Agile Resiliency, I’ve heard you talk about the seven things to keep in mind that will help a company improve. What is the most important of the seven? Or are they all equal? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

Tom, in my “Agile Resiliency” presentations, I like to give seven small things that people can take back to their office and use right away to improve performance. Each one is foundational. But if an organization wanted to know where to start driving performing improvement, I’d say start with expectation setting, followed by training.

Why are expectation setting and training so important? For one thing, when they are absent, it is really noticeable.

Case in point. Recently I was having a conversation with my wife. She was telling me about an interaction she had with a business over the phone, and she was lamenting that  "their employees don't seem to know what they are supposed to do! They obviously haven't been trained and, you know, none of their supervisors seem to care!”

This was illuminating to me. I pulled out my CMMI book and I said, “I can't believe you just listed those things, because those things are right here in black and white on the second page of the book! They are also my presentation about Agile Resiliency!  It just goes to show this is a problem for every business, across every industry, not just engineering companies.”

If we really want to transform our company culture and behave like a great company, the first thing is to help people understand exactly what we want them to do. Expectation setting first, training second.

Even the good organizations don’t necessarily do these things well. Often when I first meet a new client, they say something like, “Jeff, we've done a one-hour PowerPoint fire-hose presentation. We’re CMMI Level 2 - right?”  ahem.

And I say, “Hold on a second. You know, it's great that you did some training, it really is.  Most companies don't do anything. The fact you have a PowerPoint and a sign-in sheet to keep track of who went – those are good thing  Sure - you have "created evidence" that you did something, and that's okay I suppose. But, do people really know what they're supposed to do?”

“Umm … sure!

How do you know?

“Well,” they say, “we hire really smart people.” hmmmm.

And the customer will go on to say how they're all certified as PMPs or Scrum Masters or whatever certification they got from taking a class and a test. And that’s wonderful.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is, hiring smart people, letting them get certified and training them by fire-hose PowerPoint provides them zero data on how WE want them to behave.

As leaders of our organizations, it’s up to us to set expectations for behavior and train people on what that is and how to manage it. This approach will dramatically increase productivity of an organization.

It’s pretty straight-forward, Tom.  Execution is the hard part.

Anyone interested in learning more about applying the lessons of CMMI and agile to be a great company is invited to participate in our upcoming Webinar: “Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives

Thursday, October 9, 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.

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