Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pavlov’s Dog versus Schrodinger’s Cat

Dear Readers: This week we're lucky enough to have a new guest blogger - please welcome Eve Keller!  Eve is a Project Manager and has been a SCAMPI Appraisal Team Member.  She can be reached for comment or spirited debate at:

Pavlov’s Dog versus Schrodinger’s Cat

I’m going to completely judge your prior knowledge of my subject matter with one joke: A man walks into a library, and says to the Librarian, “I'm looking for a book that's been recommended to me… It's about Pavlov’s Dogs and Schrodinger’s Cat… Do you know it?” The Librarian answers, “well, that rings a bell, but I'm not sure if it's here or not.”

In the early twentieth century, Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov did Nobel prize-winning work on digestion. Pavlov called the dogs' anticipatory salivation "psychic secretion", thus, proving Classical Conditioning. This created an automatic unlearned response. Wouldn’t you love your employees to have an automatic, and positive, unlearned response to systemic process methodology?

Well, we can’t talk about Pavlov without tipping our proverbial hat to B.F. Skinner. Skinner used experiments with mice to demonstrate Operant Conditioning: an association made between a behavior and a consequence. Skinner believed that effective teaching must be based on positive reinforcement which is more effective at changing and establishing behavior than punishment. Even if you really want to punish those that do not adopting CMMI, it won’t help much.
Beyond Pavlov and Skinner, a third type of learning directly affects culture in your organization. Observational learning is also called “vicarious conditioning” because it involves learning by watching others acquire responses through classical or operant conditioning. A new employee discerns your corporate culture and adapts to it by watching peers and leadership.

So, what about that cat? Schrodinger’s thought experiment demonstrated the influence of an observer in quantum mechanics. Will your company succeed with a SCAMPI A Appraisal or not? That must be observed consistently through your PPQA evaluation process. Providing positive reinforcement and modeling of the desired processes will touch each person in your organization. You will develop better people with intrinsic motivation, spreading to others naturally and gain bigger contracts that you can actually sustain.

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

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 training classes 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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