Friday, March 27, 2015

What ELSE do we need to know about CMMI before we get started?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – We are very excited about adopting CMMI. Before we get started, would you give us a quick summary of the most important things to know about CMMI that you mentioned on the Webinar? ~ Ty D., Jay B, Teri I and Lou B.

Hey, Ty, Jay, Teri and Lou. Thanks for being on the Webinar. It’s amazing how much better it goes for companies that want to change behaviors when their people are passionate about adopting innovative performance improvement frameworks, like CMMI, as the four of you clearly are.

To recap what I said on the Webinar, there are several things you need to understand before you get started with adopting CMMI.

Don’t approach CMMI like it is a process. CMMI is not a process. CMMI is Model that helps guide us in the process and engineering approach we are going to follow. It isn’t something we follow. It is a framework that gives us guidance for improving the processes we already have. Some might say, “Wait … I already have processes?” Yes, you sure do. You may not have them written down. You may not have them fully fleshed out. But you are ALREADY doing most of the things in the Model in some way. You just have to flesh it out and make the connections. 

Focus on changing behavior. The CMMI is really about changing your culture, not filling out forms, but you wouldn’t know this if you listened in on some of the calls I get. Someone finds us online, calls up and says, “What templates should I use to be CMMI Level 2.” I respond by saying, “Well, what templates can you use to be a great company?” It’s rhetorical; there really aren’t any. I’d rather you use zero templates if attempting to get a Level is all you are going to use them for. Now, don’t get me wrong. Templates are useful for training people, and helping guide people on what you want them to do, but they don’t really drive behavior. I’ve seen plenty of templates get filled out without the actual associated behavior being conducted. Templates don’t always solve your problem, although they can help you.

Go for greatness. CMMI is really focused on helping your company be a great company. If you can do that, fantastic! Focus on that, not the Levels and Maturity Ratings. The Levels and Maturity Ratings will come if you become a great company. It’s really easier to focus on being good at what you do, rather than try to mock it up just to pass an appraisal at some point.

Use the “secret sauce.” The most important part of CMMI is the “secret sauce” of the Model, or the Generic Practices (GPs). There are 12 GPs in CMMI. Those are the high level areas of guidance that can make you great. Focus on the GPs, and you’ll definitely be successful in getting started with the Model.

Involve your senior management. CMMI isn’t something you push up hill. Rather, it involves company culture and company values, and is guided by the 3-tiered architecture – the framework of values, methods and techniques you use. As engineers, we’re really only responsible for the techniques. We can’t get much higher than that. We really need our senior management involved to set the tone for the values and methods we’ll follow as an organization.

Figure out why you are getting a Level. I get a lot of calls from people saying, “Yeah, we need to get a Level. My boss says we need to get a Level.” I ask them, “Why are you getting a level?” They’re not really sure. But it’s important that you have a good business reason for doing this. Adopting CMMI is not a small investment. It’s not something you do casually.

Be realistic about the timing. Another typical call I get is from someone who says, “Can you come next week or next month and do an appraisal?” The answer is almost always no. Most legitimate, successful Lead Appraisers in our business will tell you that six-to-twelve months is not uncommon as a window for us to start working with a company. I’ve already got appraisals booked out at the end of this year, and 2016. It’s not something that gets done at the last minute. There is a lengthy time of development.

Remember, Ty and Lou, adopting the CMMI is 100% about solving business problems. It’s not about documents. But the more we use it, and the more we work with companies that are using the CMMI, the more we realize that this is a model that's about how great companies perform.

So whether your goals are to successfully deliver software, achieve a CMMI “certificate” or rating, develop a strategic weapon to help you attract and retain new customers, or get on the path to becoming a great company, the CMMI can help.

That should get you started!

Anyone who missed the Webinar is invited to get started with CMMI by choosing a free Webinar in our "Everything You Need to Know” Series, by clicking here.

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 running a successful CMMI and performance improvement program.

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