A starting point for a discussion on marrying Agile methods and CMMI.

Worse than Worthless . . .

Your people with prior CMM/CMMI experience are probably worse than worthless, they’ll probably cause you to fail.


Because what they (or you) think they (or you) know is probably wrong and the advice you’re getting, the expectations being generated are entirely off base.

It all goes back to the many ways in which CMMI can be done poorly and the few, simple, but hard work ways in which it can be done correctly.

Every time I meet with a new prospect I’m confronted with reams of inaccurate assumptions and assertions about what it will take to implement CMMI and how am I expected to “do all that” and still claim to be “agile”.

My simple answer: I’m not going to do all that.  And, you shouldn’t be doing it either.

Seriously, you’ve got to wonder about executives who will force their company into doing stupid things for the sake of a rating instead of doing their homework to learn about CMMI before they head out on an implementation journey.

A recent client didn’t know any better.  They hired a consultant and an appraiser to evaluate their work against CMMI and to help them prepare for a SCAMPI appraisal.  Unfortunately, they got as far as the appraisal only to realize they weren’t going to get the target Maturity Level.  (I won’t get into some of the inappropriate behavior of the firm they hired.)

However, when this client was confronted with:

  1. Do something stupid, or
  2. Find a better way to do something smart.

They took option B and found a consultant and an appraiser who understood their context and found how to both be on a disciplined improvement path while also remaining true to their own business.

Fortunately for them, this client had a strong engineering backbone and knew what they did worked and were confident in their processes.  Many companies have a while before they can claim that much.

Next week:

Picking a Lead Appraiser:  “Dammit, Jim!  I’m a doctor not a bricklayer.”


My professional passion is to build high performance organizations out of companies motivated to be lean, agile, and achieve world-class results. My best clients are companies who have the courage, leadership, insight, foresight and discipline to be the best places to work, the best value to their customers and the best performing for their shareholders. I take a tough love approach and, frankly, have little patience for executives who *want* these things but expect to achieve them without putting in any effort or making any changes.

5 Responses to “Worse than Worthless . . .”

  1. Margaret says:

    Hey Hillel,

    I agree, the last potential client I spoke with wanted to get 'free' ATMs for their SCAMPI A. They wanted 3 volunteers out of the 4 required. I said it's allowed as long as they meet the qualifications, but I would not advise companies to do such a thing. If a company does not have the personnel to invest in a SCAMPI A, then they do not understand what they are doing, nor are their executives serious or knowledgable about the investment. I could go on and on,, but..

    Maggie Glover

  2. Anonymous says:

    Impressive (on video) as always… Little tired as always… And correct (as always). :)

    Russian SLA

  3. Anonymous says:


    I completely disagree and I would also say that you don't even know what CMMI is all about. Your knee-jerk reaction shows your bias. I have been in both CMMI and Agile shops that have been successful and unsuccessful in implementing both types of processes. Without exception, the failures were caused by people like you who would refuse to consider or do anything out of their comfort zone. To call people who actually try to improve processes within either Agile or CMMI "worse that useless" is both unprofessional and insulting. And by the way, your lucky you didn't work at Raytheon when they did their CMMI Level 5 implementation. Your statement "I’m not going to do all that" would have gotten you an invitation to the world. Once upper management sees a need for process improvement, cowboy coders like yourself cannot be tolerated.

  4. Hillel says:


    This Anonymous Coward reminds me of jerk I know named Bob. And, when I think of Bob, I have this very specific image in my head which totally sounds like what you wrote could come out of his mouth. So, Anonymous Coward jerk, from here on, you're Bob.

    You clearly don't know me.

    You clearly don't know what I'm up to.

    You clearly didn't understand what I'm saying.

    You clearly didn't do your homework — like, maybe reading other entries on this blog, or if reading hurts your brain, Bob, even watching any of the earlier videos — or looking anything up about me. Anything that could have given you a *clue* that you have no idea of what you're writing about me, Bob.

    But, just to make it easy for you, Bob, because clearly you don't know how to do research: I'm the lead author on the SEI's Technical Note on CMMI and Agile (here for your lazy convenience), I contributed nearly all the agile content to CMMI v1.3, and, I'm a Certified High Maturity Lead Appraiser (look it up), I think I know a thing or two — probably more than you — about CMMI.

    Clearly, you jump to conclusions.

    Clearly, your grammar/spelling sucks.

    Clearly, you missed what I said about most people with prior CMMI experience probably had incorrect ideas about what CMMI is/isn't.

    But since you missed all that, in other words, *YOU* Bob, my jerk Anonymous Coward, are likely PART OF THE PROBLEM!

  5. Hillel says:

    Oh, one more thing Anonymous Coward… honestly, did you even *watch* the video? Doesn't seem like it. In fact, you probably didn't watch it at all. So, my assessment of you is probably a lot more accurate than you could ever hope to assess me.

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