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

CMMI Limits Growth

If you use CMMI for the ratings only you will be limiting your growth.  CMMI can only put you on a trajectory for growth but can’t determine what that trajectory should be.  For that, executives must identify business goals they want to aspire to and then you can use CMMI to help achieve them.  In particular, goals in terms of time to market, cycle time, product or service quality, efficiency, customer delight, response time… anything that equates with operational excellence and profit.  Without these business goals and the measures to determine how well you’re moving towards them, CMMI will just frustrate your people and waste your money.

If you don’t value the idea of raising profits by lowering operational cost, then don’t bother with CMMI.  If all you want is a rating, then you will never see any benefits from CMMI.  Either you establish business growth goals, or CMMI will just eat away at your business.RatingvsGrowth  If getting leaner isn’t appealing, stay away from CMMI.

It makes me sick every time I hear a company complain how much it costs to maintain their CMMI “rating”.  It pains me to hear of companies with recent ratings who are still habitually over budget and behind schedule, and not getting better.  I’m bewildered by companies afraid to make changes to the operations for fear of “losing” their ratings.  What these real-life I’m-not-making-this-up scenarios all have in common is that every one of these situations shares the attribute of using CMMI for the ratings and not the business value of growth.

I’ll take some blame for that on behalf of the other hundreds of consultants and appraisers out there.  Sure, I can’t prevent executives from being short-sighted and ADHD, but I can do my part for allowing executives to go forth with misuse of CMMI knowing that they will ultimately fail to see any benefits.  Is that how I personally work?  Of course not, but that is how too many other consultants and appraisers work, so on their behalf, I’ll fall on the sword.  Shame on us for allowing companies to use CMMI in stupid ways when we know it’s a bad idea. 

CostvsProfitOn the other hand, what can we consultants and appraisers do when executives willingly take the “ratings over growth” route?  When executives are not willing to stand up for what’s best for the business?  When the executives are not motivated to pursue operational excellence?  At the same time, we’ve all been using the wrong language with CMMI.  Who the heck wants to hear about “process improvement”?!?  That’s a lot like wanting to hear “you need to go on a diet and get more exercise”.  Who wants that?

What executives need to hear and see is that CMMI for the ratings limits growth and is worthless but CMMI in support of increasing profits is priceless.

Use CMMI for a rating only and your business will stop its growth right where the rating starts.


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.

3 Responses to “CMMI Limits Growth”

  1. Anonymous says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David J Anderson and Hillel Glazer, Lone Rock God. Lone Rock God said: RT @hi11e1: New AgileCMMI.com blog entry: "CMMI Limits Growth." Yeah, I said it. http://goo.gl/uQM1 [...]

  2. George Zack says:

    This me of folks who define a physical fitness goal in terms of their weight. The weight is the same thing as a CMMI rating. They are not sure how they are going to get to that weight, or why, or even if it is a good idea really – but dagblamit, they need to loose 30 pounds.

    Instead of focusing on business goals, or in this analogy, their fitness, they focus on a rating or their weight.

    Neither is successful. We know that weight loss programs almost invariably have their participants bounce back on their pre diet weights, unless they are focused on a broader health and fitness initiative. My observation is that those who focus on CMMI ratings may also achieve those ratings, but also bounce back to their pre CMMI initiative behavior.

    Which all is to say – you have to do things for the right reasons or you won’t do them.

  3. I absolutely, positively couldn’t agree more with the position. In fact more CMMI initiatives fail for this very reason than any other. My position has always been to on MA and the generic practices to ensure you create a culture of on-going improvement. The information needs that drive the business decisions are the drivers of organization change. That is where the vaule of the improvements can be measure and thus maintained, even as the organizational structure may change. The business drivers don’t.

    Leveraging CMMI to improve the business occurs, not because CMMI is a technical model but because it is a behavioral model.

Leave a Reply

Copyright Agile CMMI Blog

CMMI, and SCAMPI are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Carnegie Mellon University.

WordPress Theme by: Wood Street, Inc.

Facebook Twitter