We don't need CMMI...

“We don’t need no CMMI” (sung to the tune Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall).

  • Another organization has stated that they don’t need CMMI because they already have an ISO certificate in the lobby. CMMI is not seen as a product used for improvement, it is perceived as a certification body, the goal is a maturity level.

  • We don’t want CMMI because we are flexible, our strength is to be able to change directions every day at the whim of the customer’s latest statement. CMMI is seen as a top-heavy bureaucratic process which will slow down as people follow large volumes of procedures and standards.

  • We can’t afford CMMI, we are investing in tooling. CMMI is not seen as a product which assists you in identifying needs and expectations for the selection of tools, it is an expensive and slow methodology which can easily be replaced by a new piece of software or a data storage facility.

  • We don’t use CMMI because we are not primarily a software development company. CMMI is not seen as a support in improving efficiency, customer satisfaction and results, it is seen as something developed 30 years ago for software development.

The very concept of process and process improvement is being more and more difficult to accept by organizations who are still, after all their previous failures, looking for the silver bullet. As consultants and publications remind people that CMMI is not a guarantee of quality, but an improvement of processes and practices, the feeling gets reinforced that this is a methodology which is not even willing to promise results.

Maybe I can try briefly to re-establish some basics about a proper usage of CMMI and other models.

  1. No model can satisfy your business needs if you do not understand and communicate your needs clearly. Process, measurement, tools…? None of these will work on their own as long as management as not clearly established their business goals and expectations.

  2. The CMMI, if properly implemented, should increase the maturity of your organization. Maturity is not a level, certificate or award, it is the capability of your organization to be able to rapidly react to changing circumstances through a clear understanding of why and what needs to be done, where to find the necessary information, and having the skills to implement recognized best practices rapidly and intelligently.

  3. CMMI expectations are not satisfied by someone in “an ivory tower” writing out procedures explaining to people who have experience and qualifications how to do their job; it must be a bottom-up approach in which people identify and help to remove the road-blocks to efficiency and effectiveness in their own work, with the support of their management.

  4. CMMI Maturity Levels do not mean you should not look at the higher maturity practices as long as you have not satisfied the lower ones. To the contrary, you need to start looking at all of them from the start, the maturity levels indicate that you will not get the full benefit of a practice as long as the lower level, elementary practices have not been implemented.

  5. The practices and standards which are recognized as being best for the organization need to evolve and be enforced, but the focus has to be on quality assurance and not, as so many have tried, compliance control: if the process does not satisfy the business need, the process is wrong and the users should not be forced to use it.

  6. Whatever you deploy or implement is wrong to start with. You need a good feedback loop which allows the continuous collection of recommendations, improvements and experiences to help correct the original defects in the process.

  7. Process improvement is not about documentation and control, it is about communication, learning and objectivity. You are not being asked to document everything you do, you are being asked to leave a trace so that later, we can look back, find out why something failed or succeeded, and what lessons can be learned to increase efficiency and effectiveness next time.

No miracles, then – but also no mysteries. If you have implemented CMMI correctly, focusing on the people in your organization and the needs of your people, it is a good demonstration that you have the maturity to understand your capabilities and limitations, and make commitments which you can satisfy.

If you have found a lead appraiser who was happy to give you the result you wanted, or whom you could fool into not seeing the issues within your organization, you have wasted your time and money, you will continue to deliver bad quality products, processes and services, and your customers will not trust you for long.

Of course, if you just want to be another brick in the wall...

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