Archive for the ‘ratings’ Category

CMMI On One Leg

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

I’m not sure, but I’m told some famous guy back in Biblical liturgy was once asked to explain the point of the Pentateuch (aka, the Torah, aka, The Five Books of Moses) while "standing on one leg".  

I now undertake a task, possibly no less daunting, regarding CMMI.  And, if there ever were anyone more appropriate to try it, I doubt I’ve met them.

Seriously though, much has been written here and many other places (not to mention eons of conference and user group content) about a number of "universal truths" about CMMI.  Let’s get these out there first, but without dwelling on them:

  • There are no "processes" in CMMI, only practices, and there’s a difference.
  • The practices in CMMI are "what" but not "how".
  • These practices are use to improve your processes, not to define them.
  • The CMMI does not require the SCAMPI appraisal to be effective.  You can use CMMI to improve your operation without ever using the SCAMPI to appraise your use of CMMI.
  • 42.  OK.  Not really.

However, not a single one of these "truths" explain the point of CMMI, or,  how to actually use CMMI.  So, here it goes:

Each one of the practices in CMMI improves some aspect of your organization’s performance resulting from how you do your work.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s providing a service or developing a product.  And, it doesn’t matter whether you do so using so-called traditional development methods or Agile approaches.  If you have performance issues in an area of your operation (called, "Process Areas" in CMMI), Check each of the practices in that area for activities in your operation that might be causing those performance issues. 

It’s assumed, then, if you don’t have any issues covered by a practice then you don’t need to do anything about a practice, because you’re already doing it.  This says nothing of how well you do it, why you do it, how you do it, whether you recognize that you do it, or whether the fact that you do it is a complete coincidental freak of nature, but, if you read a practice, understand the risk it avoids, and you don’t encounter that risk, you’re somehow performing that practice.  Pretty simple.

I’ll repeat and summarize that two-step thought experiment:

  1. Look in the process areas for practices that address performance issues you’re experiencing with the operation of your work.  When you encounter a practice (or more than one), the absence of which can explain why you’re seeing those issues, make appropriate changes to your operation so that you incorporate that/those practice(s) into your operation.  Rinse and repeat.
  2. Practices that don’t represent risks or issues you’re not seeing are (pretty much, by definition) practices you’re somehow managing to accomplish.  Don’t bother with them — unless you notice that you don’t like something about how you do it, but that’s a different priority/matter.

Keep in mind, this says nothing of

  • whether what you do/don’t do will suffice as "evidence" for an appraisal
  • how well you perform the practices (regardless of whether or not you perform them or believe you can use them to improve),
  • what it takes to incorporate practices or make change, in general, happen in your operation,
  • whether an appraisal team will concur with whether you do/don’t perform practices, or
  • you interpret practices in constructive ways.

Nonetheless, if you internalize the significance of the above 2 steps, you can (I dare say, "will") save yourselves a lot of time and grief when using CMMI.  This approach can certainly help you prioritize the practices for which to focus on, appraisal or not.  And, if you do take this approach towards preparation for an appraisal, keep in mind the bulleted caveats and don’t try this alone.

Short-Cut to CMMI: Lean First

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Want fast, easy CMMI ratings?  Even high maturity?

First, implement lean, Goldratt’s TOC, Deming’s ideas, Kanban, and other related concepts, then get busy with CMMI.

What you may not know is that lean is easier, faster, and generates better performance results sooner than CMMI.

Lean improves delivery issues sooner than process improvement alone.  Improved deliveries improves revenues, stabilizes cash flow, increases margin, makes customers happier and results in more sales.

In other words, lean means better flow and better flow means better business.

CMMI is great, but is often attempted as a first line of offense to issues it’s not meant to deal with.  CMMI is meant to improve flow, not define it, and, lean helps define flow.
(Yes, I know I said "theory of constraints" twice.)

Assuming there are unfulfilled orders in the sales pipeline, lack of revenue is due to lack of flow.  Typically, this is due more to what’s in the flow, how much is in it, and the clarity and cleanliness of how the operation’s flow is aligned.  Using CMMI to "fix" issues with flow is like using the Brownian motion of steeping tea to power a random-number generator.  It’s just too much too soon.  Process issues are themselves symptoms of flow issues.

Deal with the symptoms first.  Then, tackle the processes.

Two events to put on your radar:

Lean Software and Systems Conference: Boston, 13-18 May (Lean Camp & Lean Action Kitchen, Sunday, Conference Monday-Wednesday, and Tutorials Thursday & Friday).  I’m helping to organize and speaking at the conference, and running a tutorial on this topic on Thursday.

Kanban Change Agent Masterclass: Miami, 23-25 May.  I’ll be participating as a special guest to demonstrate how Kanban helps achieve CMMI ratings, including High Maturity.

Forget CMMI!

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

This is probably the most important blog entry I’ve ever posted.

The video is the longest video I’ve ever posted on the blog, and for that reason, I’ll keep the text content to a minimum. 

Here’s why you should watch the video:  CMMI may be entirely wrong for you, and you may not know it!

The video explains an epically crucial reality about CMMI that many agile (and other) teams are not aware of, leading them unknowingly down a path of self-defeat and damage.  All of which could be avoided with this one super-critical piece of knowledge.

You’ll thank me later.


The lure of seemingly limitless opportunities can be quite strong, obviously.  And, especially in tough economic times, succumbing to that lure can cause even the best of businesses to act unwisely.  Such is the lure of CMMI ratings.

Well, anything that’s very alluring can cause unwise behavior, I suppose.  Whether it’s as apparently harmless as indulging in a luscious dessert, spending money on unnecessary luxuries, or any of equally limitless opportunities to make bad choices, doing what we want instead of doing what’s right shows up even when working with CMMI.

This blog is full of examples of such bad CMMI choices, but there’s one bad choice I haven’t mentioned much about.  That’s the choice to even try to use CMMI.

When working with a knowledgeable, concerned, trustworthy CMMI consultant, an organization should be steered away from CMMI when their circumstance doesn’t align well with model-based improvement using CMMI.  In some cases, it may be a matter of steering towards the right CMMI constellation (e.g., for Development, or, for Services).  However, just as whether or not CMMI is right for an organization ought to be discovered before too much energy is put into it, so should the decision about a particular maturity level within the constellation.

No CMMI constellation should be attempted if/when the organization doesn’t control the work that it does.  Namely, that the work it does is controlled by another organization, such as a customer.  Or, put the other way, CMMI should only be used if/when the processes used by the people doing the work are controlled by the same organization using CMMI to improve them.

At Maturity Level 2 (ML2), almost any type of work can use the practices in that level to improve its performance and to demonstrate that the practices are in place.  However, at Maturity Level 3 (ML3), you have to be doing the type of work in the particular constellation in order to be able to use the practices in it.  If you’re not doing that type of work, the practices will be irrelevant.  Attempting to use the practices when there’s no such work being done will only cause the practices to get in the way and add nothing but frustration.

In particular, if you’re not doing work that involves structured engineering analysis, CMMI for Development at ML3 will be truly unwieldy.

Adding practices for work you’re not doing is an example of the bad behavior many organization exhibit when they’re chasing a level rating rather than hot on the trail of performance improvements.  It’s these sorts of behaviors that are somehow rationalized as being beneficial when, in fact, they are unequivocally, diametrically, and everything but beneficial.  They are a colossal waste of time and money and detrimental to morale and productivity.

You really need carve out about 11 minutes to watch the video.