Thursday, February 11, 2016

Will the combination of CMMI and Scrum work for us?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, What’s the best way to evaluate whether the combination of CMMI and Scrum will work in our environment? We’re a traditional software company that has been appraised at Maturity Level 3.  We serve the federal government and its suppliers in the health care industry, many of whom are “going Agile.”  We want to stay ahead of the curve, but I'm worried that our leadership may be wary of this new idea. ~ Walter S.


You ask a great question. Every traditional engineering or software firm needs to ask it from time to time, especially those who have adopted the CMMI.

Will CMMI and Scrum work for you? If it were simply a matter of logic, the answer would be, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Unfortunately, I’ve found that people are not logical when faced with change. Human beings tend to fear new ideas. And combining CMMI and Scrum is definitely a new idea that a lot of people are uncomfortable with, at first.

As you may know from previous posts, this CMMI Appraiser started his career journey as a classical musician.  My first degree was in music.  Hence I use a lot of musical references in my books and keynote speeches, including this quote by the pioneering American composer, John Cage:

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."

Actually, I can understand why people are uncomfortable with Scrum. The first time I worked on a Scrum Team, I was uncomfortable with it. Now I’m such a big fan that many of our PROCESS projects are using Scrum.

So I feel qualified to offer a couple of suggestions for helping your organization get comfortable with combining CMMI and Scrum.

First, take a look at the CMMI’s Generic Practices, specifically GP2.8 and GP2.10. These GPs guide us to review data about process performance with higher level management. In other words, let’s have a discussion about the following data:

  • How happy are our customers?
  • Do we have a lot of rework here?
  • How productive are our employees?
  • What kind of defects do we have?
  • Do we have over-budget projects or late projects?

The answers may surprise you. They may even frighten you. I was talking with one engineering executive recently who did not even know what the metrics he should be tracking, or even what questions to ask. He was flying blind.  Scary stuff!

Scrum helps us solve some of those problems by building constructs that encourage "information radiation," collaboration, and rapid return on information. Yes, Scrum takes faith and trust to get used to it, but I’d rather do that than continue to do things that haven’t been working. Perhaps your partners would agree that it may be worthwhile to try something a little different.

To learn more about combining CMMI and Scrum, check out our upcoming FREE webinars:

Monday, 2/15: “All About CMMI” -- This is a great place to start. Find out EVERYTHING you need to know about CMMI by signing up for the introductory webinar.

Wednesday, 2/17: “Agile Transformation” – Learn to take advantage of Agile for a lighter, leaner approach to solving business problems incrementally and iteratively.  Check it out!

Friday, 2/19: “Scaling and Strengthening Agile" -- By participating in this webinar, you'll come away with an understanding of the work that needs to be done to strengthen Agile in a way that makes sense for your organization, while staying true to Agile methods.

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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