Friday, November 13, 2015

Call 9-1-1! Our CMMI Appraiser is killing us on Friday the 13th!

Dear CMMI Appraiser,

Our CMMI Appraiser is killing us! He’s demanding work product evidence for every single sub-practice in the model … and there seems to be no end of them! We are spending incredible hours in soul-crushing meetings. Is the CMMI supposed to be so over-engineered, heavy-handed and burdensome? Honestly, I think I’d prefer a tax audit. ~ Charles D.


How frightening that your question comes on Friday the 13th! Your CMMI Appraiser reminds me of the evil Freddy Krueger in the horror film by the same name.  Better call 9-1-1!

Of course it’s no laughing matter when you’re in the middle of it – except for the fact that, if you don't laugh, you'll cry. Clearly, some of my fellow Lead Appraisers are so far off the deep end that they are making the CMMI feel like an attack on your life – and that’s scary.

The intent of a CMMI Appraisal is not to lock you in a meeting room and torture you. It’s supposed to be an event that brings you together to have fun, learn new skills, establish new traditions and come away the better for it.

Where, oh where did your sick and twisted CMMI appraiser go wrong?

Let’s set the record straight.

First, as you are experiencing, too many meetings are a productivity KILLER. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that the more meetings you have, the less you can accomplish. I’ve heard Lead Appraisers say things like, “We need to have a lot of meetings because they need everything clarified face-to-face, or else how can they understand the projects, resolve issues or risks or assumptions or any of those things?” AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!  Shoot me now!

Somebody call the process police! That explanation is just criminal.

Second, a SCAMPI appraisal is NOT an audit! A good Lead Appraiser is the OPPOSITE of an auditor. The CMMI is a model for continuous improvement, and a Lead Appraiser is tasked with not only ensuring that you’re using the model properly, but that you are getting value out of it, and that your company is using it to become a better or – as I call it – a great company. That’s the bottom line of CMMI.

If your Lead Appraiser is insisting on seeing “work product evidence,” or what they now call “artifacts” for every single sub practice in the model, he’s acting like an auditor. The CMMI does NOT call for an audit of subpractices! Talk about shattering the stillness of the night with blood-curdling screams!

A Lead Appraiser who behaves like an auditor is driving wrong behaviors, wasting money, and making people hate CMMI. He might as well come at you with a machete and a mask!

No wonder you feel that your Lead Appraiser is over-engineering what his task is. He probably thinks the way to win business is to force you down a path where you are terrified of him and think you need to memorize everything that’s in the book. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no reason for anyone in your company to do that.

Charles, this may be difficult, but I want you to remain calm. Stay on the line, and know that the practices in the CMMI are valuable guidance for you. They are not things to comply with, as written. They are guidance for you. Their job is to help you make yourself incrementally and iteratively better.

A good Lead Appraiser won’t care if you know what the GPs are, by their numbers. All a good Lead Appraiser will care about is: Are you training people? Do you have a process for doing work? Do you have policies? Are you improving as an organization? Are you learning about yourselves?

You need a good Lead Appraiser, Charles. Otherwise the torture will continue. You may indeed end up with a CMMI Maturity Level 2 or Maturity Level 3, but you will not have realized any of the benefits of the CMMI. We’ve seen that movie. What a horror show!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He 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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