Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How do we strike a balance between agile and CMMI training?

CMMI Appraiser, I manage the software division of an ML3 engineering firm in Washington, DC. About a year after going agile, we are dealing with issues of low morale, low productivity and, frankly, a lot of chaos. Our Scrum team is asking for CMMI training, but I’m concerned about too much training, too much oversight and too much overhead. How do we strike a balance? ~ Charles K. 

Charles, great question. Balancing the rigors of CMMI and the flexibility of agile does include a training component, and I’ll talk more about that below. But from the little bit you’ve said about your company culture, I don’t think you start with CMMI training. To strike a balance, start at a higher level. Start with your values.


Why values? One thing you may not realize, Charles: Scrum and CMMI are more akin to organizational behavior models than process models. They can help drive people’s behavior in alignment with your values. This means, if you want to be the best company you can possibly be, you need to be clear on your values.

Just look around if you need proof. Wherever you see low morale, low productivity and a lot of chaos, there is a mismatch between the corporate values and the work the team is trying to perform.

Here’s how it often goes down. Someone in management sends out an email. They make a lot of requests that are out of alignment with what the Scrum teams are trying to do. For instance, they might ask people to speed up, or do a big plan up front, or do other things that a pure agile team is not comfortable with.

They say, “I thought you wanted us to be agile!”

That's just it. You DO want them to be agile. There are tremendous advantages to applying agile methods to continuous improvement. This approach allows you to be rapid, flexible, and able to meet the needs of the customers quicker than your competition might be able to. If management REALLY bought into these agile values, and REALLY cared about seeing them reflected in everyone’s behavior, this would not be an issue.

So here’s the question, Charles: Do you really care?

Clearly so, or you wouldn’t have reached out for help.

Then shouldn’t you be interested in learning as much about adopting agile and CMMI as you possibly can?

Which brings us to training. Your team wants it - go for it! There are many different CMMI training courses that are related to CMMI, Scrum, or general process improvement. You have a lot of options.

The CMMI training class that I am conducting, "Introduction to CMMI-DEV v1.3," on February 11-13, 2015 in Livonia, Michigan is designed with organizations like yours in mind. It helps CMMI-focused companies that are looking for guidance on being lighter and more flexible, as well as agile teams that are still seeking the kind of results they’ve been hoping for. We use real life examples, lessons and proven techniques. Class participants take away – and retain – valuable information they can use on the job, immediately.

That’s the best way to strike a balance, in my opinion, Charles. Set your values, sign up for a class, and learn how to align the team’s behavior with the values. That way, instead of worrying about what they're supposed to do, your folks will just have fun DOING IT! Or, as one old developer put it, “Can't we just make stuff?”

Hope to see you in February.  Click here to sign up for the Intro to CMMI-DEV training class.

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Friday, October 24, 2014

SPaMCast Question #10: What’s the Difference between Asking “CMMI Questions” and Being “CMMI Compliant”?

Jeff, another of the concepts that you talk about in your Agile Resiliency presentations is that there's a difference between being "compliant" and asking "who-what-why" CMMI questions. I like the idea, but I struggle with it.  What's the difference between asking the questions and being compliant? ~ Tom Cagely, SPaMCast 

[NOTE: Over the past several weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.] 

Tom, thank you for picking up on this distinction. It’s an important one. The difference between asking “CMMI questions” and being compliant has to do with the point in time that you ask the question. Asking at the wrong time can lead to painful face-palm moments.


So many of the folks I see out in the industry have zero defined processes, or at least they don't have them fleshed out enough to be able to describe them. So they hire a so-called CMMI consultant who tells them to open the CMMI book and walk through the practices. They create flow diagrams based on the practices. And they say, “Okay. Here's our project planning process. It includes estimating, and it includes reviewing.” They use the CMMI as the source of their process descriptions, as a source document.

That’s a mistake. The CMMI is not a source document. That wasn’t what it was intended for. It wasn't intended for you to create process. It was intended for you to take what you already do, and make it better.

This really hit home for me the first time I walked into a self-described agile organization and saw them using all Waterfall tools. I saw work breakdown structures, weekly status meetings and all of the trappings of a typical Waterfall project that you expect to see.

I said, “You told me you were agile. Why are you doing all these things?”

They replied, “Well, we wrote a process based on what the CMMI told us to write.”

This was a face-palm moment. I said, “Oh my gosh! People don't really understand what this thing is. They actually believe adopting a performance innovation model like CMMI has something to do with compliance!”

The truth is, CMMI doesn’t tell you to do anything. CMMI is not about compliance. It’s not about documents. Adopting the CMMI is 100% about solving business problems and, the more we use it, the more we work with companies that are using the CMMI, the more we realize that CMMI is a Model that's about how great companies perform.

Too many so-called CMMI Consultants don't get this, especially those in Washington, DC. They think CMMI is about passing an audit. They see no value in providing resources and assuring that actions are planned for. They are out there saying, “You must have flow diagrams and process descriptions that mirror this Model.”

Oh really? The truth is, the good folks at SEI and the CMMI Institute who oversee the Model never meant for that to happen. This compliance mindset is the result of ambitious consultants and ambitious companies trying to get a CMMI Maturity Rating by reverse engineering the Model, and then forcing their people to behave in that manner.

How useful is that? Not very.

Now, good CMMI consultants – those who understand that CMMI is 100% about solving business problems – encourage companies to turn that around. We say, “Don't use CMMI as a compliance model. Use it as a way to ask questions about the way you already work.”

For instance, let’s say we are an agile organization and we’re using Daily Standups. Good. We’ve got our Daily Standup, and we’re meeting every week. We’re talking about blocking; we’re talking about yesterday’s weather; we’re talking about all that kind of good stuff. Now, let’s crack open the CMMI book and walk through the practices and ask questions, such as:

“How are we estimating how big this project is?”

The answer might be, “Well, we’ve got a product backlog and we’ve got Epics to find in story points and we've got that broken down into Sprints.”

If that’s your answer, I will say, “Hey guys, you nailed it! That's exactly right. That's exactly what you should be doing, and there’s nothing I can do improve it.”

So you keep paging through the CMMI book, and you get to the practice about risk management. The CMMI question to ask is as follows:

“So tell me, how are we managing risks at our Daily Standup?”

Now, you might find that the team looks around and says, “Ha! You know what? We're really not talking about risks, are we? We better correct that. Let’s make a section of whiteboard for our high and low and medium risks, just so we can keep track of how they’re going. And, here's our information radiator for that. And here’s how we’re doing this.”

Again, you nailed it! You successfully answered the question about risk management.

As you can see, Tom, CMMI questions are very effective. As a Lead Appraiser, my approach is to take what folks are already doing, and walk them through the practices, asking questions for every single one of them.

The really cool thing about this approach is, engineers are smart people, so they know all the answers! They know what they need to do to fix deficiencies. This would not be possible if we went about things using the compliance mentality. All of these super smart engineers would be sitting around, scratching their heads for weeks, wondering what the heck the practices mean, what are the sub-practices and what are the documents? At the end, they would wind up with four hundred documents, instead of the right amount of work products.

Asking CMMI questions, rather than focusing on being compliant, is a completely different mental model. Using CMMI questions is an organizational innovation and engineering strategy that drives completely different behavior. So whether your goals are to successfully deliver software, achieve a CMMI Maturity Level, use the CMMI as a strategic weapon to help you attract and retain new customers, or get on the path to becoming a great company, asking CMMI questions can help you get there. Focusing on being compliant can only lead to face-palm moments.

For those who are interested in learning more about applying the lessons of CMMI and agile to be a great company, we invite you to participate in our upcoming Webinar: “Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives” on November 6, 2014 from 12-1PM EST.

Click here to register for the webinar.

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don't Miss This Webinar! “CMMI – Everything You NEED to Know!”

Dear Readers,

If you are an executive, engineer and/or business professional who needs to learn everything about the CMMI so you can create an environment in which your organization can manage its uniqueness in a structured way … wow … do we have a Webinar for you!

Join us for “CMMI - Everything You Need to Know” on Thursday, November 20, 2014 from noon to 2PM EST.



The action-packed Webinar, hosted by Broadsword, provides strategies, tips and practical, real-world solutions to today’s business problems using the leading framework for engineering performance improvement, the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI).  And best of all, the information is absolutely FREE!

Are you new to CMMI? Welcome aboard! This fast-paced, in-depth Webinar shows you how to use CMMI to transform the culture of your company, so that you can say goodbye to chaos, “process debt” and unpredictable outcomes. You’ll learn to improve and change the way your company behaves, so that you build better products, win new business and retain the customers you have.

Have you been working with CMMI for a while? That’s great! You’ll still want to check out the Webinar, where you are bound to hear some ideas that you haven't considered before, that will help you get better at what you are ALREADY doing.

Your speaker is Jeff Dalton of "Ask the CMMI Appraiser." Jeff is a Certified Lead Appraiser and CMMI Instructor. He has conducted hundreds of CMMI Appraisals and taught thousands of students in his CMMI Training classes. He is a process innovation thought-leader and CMMI Consultant who has been a guest speaker at conferences and workshops around the world.

Don't miss this informative event! Register here.

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CMMI Institute announces Global Conference Series for 2015!


Today, we are pleased to announce the CMMI Institute Global Conference Series for 2014-2015 in cities that span the globe.

The CMMI Institute Global Conference Series connects organizations and individuals committed to building capability and elevating performance with the best practices, case studies, and shared learning that will equip them to face challenges and reach their goals. Check out the individual events or explore the whole series at the CMMI Institute Global Conference Series website, then mark your calendar and book your room. 

Mark your calendars for these exciting events: 
Interested in being a presenter at one of the CMMI Institute conferences?

If you have a case study that highlights how you improved your organizational capability and performance, we want to hear about your experience.  Submit by visiting the Call for Participation on the conference website, fill out the form and select the conference you plan to attend.

Register early for the Global Congress and save 10%!

CMMI Institute email subscribers can access a special 10% discount on the Early Bird registration rate for the CMMI Institute Global Congress.

Register by 30 November 2014 with the promotional code "EmailSpecial" to unlock the SUPER Early Bird rate. Register Now and Save>

Bookmark http://CMMIConferences.com to keep up with all the news about the CMMI Institute Global Conference Series.


10-11 December 2014
Shenzhen, China
JW Marriott Hotel

Presented in partnership with  ZenithUS and with support from the City Government of Shenzhen


26 - 27 March 2015 
London, England
Location TBA

Presented in partnership with UNICOM.   Event formerly known as SEPG Europe.


12 - 13 May 2015
Seattle, USA
The Westin Seattle Hotel

Event formerly known as SEPG North America


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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead AppraiserCertified 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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Do all SCAMPI Appraisal Team Members need to be trained?

Dear Appraiser:

We are currently in the process of going for CMMI L2 & L3 appraisal, my senior management has a question regarding Appraisal Team Members (ATMs) that will under-go the official CMMI training [Introduction to CMMI].

Our consultant proposed 7 ATM’s and will train them. From a sustainability point of view, if some of the ATM’s leave the organization in the future what is the procedure to get additional training  for new members in the future?

Is it mandatory to have ATM’s go through official introduction to CMMI training class?

Thank you in advance for your guidance.  ~Ramesh.


Great question!

Being on a SCAMPI Appraisal Team is serious business, as the ATMs are being asked to gather and evaluate objective evidence, and then develop an inventory of strengths and weaknesses that will be used to improve the performance of the appraised origination.

For obvious reasons, Appraisal Team Members need to be both experienced and trained.  Their experience and domain knowledge helps them understand how the CMMI may be used to improve performance, and "model knowledge" of CMMI helps them understand and apply the practices in a common way that makes sense to everyone on the team.

All prospective Appraisal Team Members must meet basic experience requirements (it's safe to assume no "newbies" or interns will qualify) as defined in the SCAMPI Method Definition Document (MDD), and total team experience must be at least 25 years, not including the Lead Appraiser.

It's not as hard to meet this requirement as you may think.  I'm working on an Appraisal this week with combined team experience of over 130 years!

In addition to experience requirements, there are also training requirements.  Appraisal Team Members must have completed at least one offering of "Introduction to CMMI" (v1.2 or v1.3) in the constellation they are using to appraise their organization (DEV, SVC, of ACQ), and must also have completed a SCAMPI Appraisal Team Training class provided specifically for that appraisal by the Lead Appraiser.

Appraisal Teams that are not well trained, or those with limited experience, will find it difficult to add value to the company during a SCAMPI A Appraisal.  Experienced and well-trained teams usually add significant value - so it's well worth doing!

Good luck - and enjoy your training!

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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead AppraiserCertified 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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.





Sunday, October 19, 2014

SPaMCast Question #9: what’s wrong with trying to turn agile into a “silver bullet”?

Jeff, we have historically as an industry always thought that there was a silver bullet, and there never really has been. Is this the way we’re approaching agile? Is “going agile” just another reflection of that silver bullet thinking?

[NOTE: Over the past several weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.]

Tom, yes, I think it is. It’s pretty clear when a self-described agile organization is not really agile, but thinks they can use “going agile” as a silver bullet. You see them embracing agile techniques with no attempt to connect those techniques to agile values or agile methods, and they end up shooting themselves in the foot. That’s not where they were hoping the silver bullet would go!



You know, Tom, very few organizations that SAY they are agile that actually ARE agile. Instead, all they are doing is exercising various agile techniques. These companies will say to me, “Yeah, we’re an agile organization. We do a Daily Standup.” I say, “OK, that's great that you do a Daily Standup. I’m a big fan of that technique. Tell me what else you do.” And they’ll kind of look around, scratching their heads. They say, “Well, we, uh, we have sticky notes.” And I say, “OK.” Sticky notes is a good tool. What else are you doing?”

Before long, it becomes clear to me that all they're doing is mirroring the adoption cycle by focusing on doing Daily Standups, sticky notes, and all this low-level stuff. There's nothing wrong with any of it. As a matter fact, even if you are a Waterfall shop, these are great techniques to use. But here’s the rub: agile is not agile when the techniques are disconnected from the methods and the values. These are the three tiers of agile resiliency – values, methods and techniques. They all have to be present, and they have to be traceable, for an organization to be truly agile.

Again, agile techniques are fantastic. I always tell companies they should use whatever techniques make the most sense for their business.  But they have to be tied to some framework or method.

In the case of the agile community, Scrum is the most common method. Most organizations are using a mix of Scrum and Extreme Programming techniques, but many of them aren't running Scrum projects. Instead, they say things like, “Yeah, we’re using Scrum. But our project manager manages us using the Microsoft Project work plan. So we plan everything out in advance. We have a big plan and sort of a traditional approach to that, because that's what our management wants to see.”

Umm …

Then you look to the highest level of the organization, the management level or the executive level, and agile values are nowhere to be found. They think they've got the silver bullet approach. They say, “We’re agile. We’re doing agile. We’re going agile.” But what they're really doing is adopting an untraceable set of agile techniques and shooting themselves in the foot. There really isn't a future for that. Unless you want to spend the rest of your career limping around with a hole in your shoe!

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Friday, October 17, 2014

We blew our CMMI Appraisal – can you give us a break this time around?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, last year we failed our CMMI Appraisal. Given our negative experience with CMMI, can you help us get our CMMI certification in 2015 quickly at a discount? ~ from a phone inquiry

Dear Readers,

Every now and then, someone calls me with such a bizarre request, I have to take a deep breath before answering. I try to figure out what I can say to get them turned in the right direction before it’s too late, and they wreck their business.



It happened again recently. A call came in from a software engineering company looking to get a discount from us. Their reason? They said they cut corners, rushed through it,  got busy and "failed" their CMMI appraisal. Now they want to try again, as fast as possibe … at a discount.

It was a stark example of Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The caller’s name was Bill. I said, “Bill, in my opinion, if you don’t change your approach, there is nothing you can possibly do to make this year’s CMMI experience any different from last year. You will just fail again....at any cost."

“Why do you say that?” he asked.

“Because you said you are looking for a CMMI certificate, but the real value of the CMMI is not certification,” I said. “In fact, CMMI certification, the way you are thinking about it, doesn’t even exist.”

[NOTE – because I didn’t want to add to his confusion, I did not tell Bill about the new certification called the Certified CMMI Associate TM, from the CMMI Institute. The CMMI Associate certification helps individuals committed to excellence in process improvement identify themselves for professional career growth and advancement]

“What are you talking about?” he said. “I Googled CMMI certification and got thousands of pages!"

I said I was glad he found us, but tried to show him that there was risk in focusing on external rewards like getting a so-called CMMI certification, a Maturity Level or a Capability Level Rating. Pursuing these things as a primary goal is a misguided interpretation of what actually needed to be done.

“Does it matter how I get a Maturity Rating?” he asked. “Our clients won’t care.”

“I disagree,” I said, “your clients want you to be better at what you do. But if you focus only on CMMI certification, you end up losing all of the value of the CMMI. You end up chasing the paper, not the improvements, and there will be no benefit for you or your clients.  The benefit is the entire reason they are asking you to do this!”

He said, “Look, we don’t want to make this any harder than it needs to be.” Ugh.  Being great is SUPPOSED to be hard!  That's why more companies don't do it!

I asked him to consider that it’s actually easier to do it right than it is to chase the paper! And you also get the benefits. What's not to like?

The value of the CMMI comes from the transformation of the culture of your company. It’s about changing the way we behave, so that we build products that are better than other companies that are building similar products – with the big difference being that their processes cost more, produce lower quality, and make their employees and clients unhappy.

My final point: You can’t transform a culture by going out and getting certificates. Too many companies have walls full of certificates ("Plaque Buildup") but build inferior products.  When we put a “certification” mindset around getting better, it drives the wrong kind of behaviors. Rather, we should focus on doing the things that help us be as great a company as we can be. CMMI helps us do that better than any model I've seen.

“I’m giving you one more chance,” he said. “If you want our business, you’ll give us a discount and tell us how to do this as fast as possible. What do you say?”

I said the only thing I could say: “Good luck!”

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SPaMCast Question #8: How important is training for organizations that want to develop Agile Resiliency?

[NOTE: Over the past several weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.] 

Jeff, in your presentation about Agile Resiliency, I’ve heard you talk about the seven things to keep in mind that will help a company improve. What is the most important of the seven? Or are they all equal? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

Tom, in my “Agile Resiliency” presentations, I like to give seven small things that people can take back to their office and use right away to improve performance. Each one is foundational. But if an organization wanted to know where to start driving performing improvement, I’d say start with expectation setting, followed by training.



Why are expectation setting and training so important? For one thing, when they are absent, it is really noticeable.

Case in point. Recently I was having a conversation with my wife. She was telling me about an interaction she had with a business over the phone, and she was lamenting that  "their employees don't seem to know what they are supposed to do! They obviously haven't been trained and, you know, none of their supervisors seem to care!”

This was illuminating to me. I pulled out my CMMI book and I said, “I can't believe you just listed those things, because those things are right here in black and white on the second page of the book! They are also my presentation about Agile Resiliency!  It just goes to show this is a problem for every business, across every industry, not just engineering companies.”

If we really want to transform our company culture and behave like a great company, the first thing is to help people understand exactly what we want them to do. Expectation setting first, training second.

Even the good organizations don’t necessarily do these things well. Often when I first meet a new client, they say something like, “Jeff, we've done a one-hour PowerPoint fire-hose presentation. We’re CMMI Level 2 - right?”  ahem.

And I say, “Hold on a second. You know, it's great that you did some training, it really is.  Most companies don't do anything. The fact you have a PowerPoint and a sign-in sheet to keep track of who went – those are good thing  Sure - you have "created evidence" that you did something, and that's okay I suppose. But, do people really know what they're supposed to do?”

“Umm … sure!

How do you know?

“Well,” they say, “we hire really smart people.” hmmmm.

And the customer will go on to say how they're all certified as PMPs or Scrum Masters or whatever certification they got from taking a class and a test. And that’s wonderful.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is, hiring smart people, letting them get certified and training them by fire-hose PowerPoint provides them zero data on how WE want them to behave.

As leaders of our organizations, it’s up to us to set expectations for behavior and train people on what that is and how to manage it. This approach will dramatically increase productivity of an organization.

It’s pretty straight-forward, Tom.  Execution is the hard part.

Anyone interested in learning more about applying the lessons of CMMI and agile to be a great company is invited to participate in our upcoming Webinar: “Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives

Thursday, October 9, 2014 from 12-1PM EDT.

Click here to register for the webinar.

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, October 6, 2014

How can we get value from Requirements Development within Agile teams?

[Dear Readers, our good friend Pat O’Toole, CMMI expert and seasoned consultant, is collaborating with us on a new monthly series of CMMI-related posts, "Just the FAQs." Our goal with these posts is to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about the CMMI, SCAMPI, engineering strategy and software process improvement. This month Jeff writes about using language that makes sense in an agile environment. In other words, Jeff translates practices in Requirements Development to "stuff that needs to happen." Take it away, Jeff! ~ the CMMI Appraiser]

We’ve studied the practices in Requirements Development, but they don’t seem very “agile.” We know they don’t describe specific techniques we should use, but it’s hard to see how we can align this process area with what we’re doing on our Scrum teams.

JEFF: As Gloria Estefan likes to sing “… the words get in the waaaay …”

When I am working with Scrum teams, I steer clear from terms that are tied to process models or alternative cultures (“hey, what the heck are product-component requirements?”). These terms are all well and good for textbooks and classrooms, but someday somebody is going to get hurt!

I try to adapt my language to local conditions when working with Agile teams, and my favorite word tends to be “stuff.” For instance, the “needs” we elicit from our customers (RD SP1.1) are the collection of stuff that our customers say they want (but will change). Customer Requirements (RD SP1.2) are what we eventually get as we learn more about the stuff they want (but that’ll change too), and then we validate requirements to make sure we can build some cool stuff that they find useful (and are willing to pay for).

To help translate the practices in Requirements Development into “stuff that needs to happen” I usually suggest that agile teams implement two things:  a three-tiered architecture that brings clarity to their requirements process and a cascading “definition of done” that helps ensure that the requirements provide a solid foundation for estimation, design, and development.

Note: I will admit that the notion of applying a “definition of done” to the creation of User Stories is not strictly “agile,” but there is no reason we shouldn’t use agile to help improve agile, right?


Tier 1  The Product Backlog represents what the customer has asked for in prioritized order, and the CMMI provides information and guidance for some ways that we might extract and compile the content in RD SP1.1 and SP1.2. Because we are often asked to provide a “rough order of magnitude” estimate for the product backlog (“we don’t know what we want, but how much will it cost?”), we usually use Wide-Band Delphi, a collaborative, experience-based estimation game that is played in three rounds. It is ideal for agile teams because of its similarity to other agile estimation methods, but uses effort, not story points, as its unit of measure. Government and large corporate customers haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the relative sizing of story points yet  – but we’re making progress!

Tier 2:  Epics draw on the Product Backlog to depict scenarios written from the user perspective, and may represent many User Stories. The CMMI provides guidance in both RD SP1.2 and RD SP2.1 that can help strengthen the narrative so that both the customer and the Scrum team can benefit from increased clarity. Epics are often described as just “big user stories,” but that definition has been driving teams to ignore them altogether in their rush to get to the specific User Stories that they can sink their teeth into. This trend is unfortunate because Epics play an important validation role in uncovering defects in the product backlog long before story development begins. Once Epics are complete, further estimation is needed to prioritize the workload across sprints and releases, so this tier introduces relative sizing models like The Fibonacci Game (“Team Estimation Game”), while leaving the door open for refinement of the effort-based estimate developed at Tier one.

Tier 3:  User Stories are user-centric narratives with identified tasks that can be completed within a single sprint. RD SP 2.1 and RD SP 2.2 both provide valuable information for assisting in the development of stronger user stories, while RD SP2.3 can help uncover stories that are not typically represented in the Product Backlog. Because the Scrum team has beaten a direct path from need to epic to user story to task, it now has a thorough understanding of the functionality to be delivered in the next sprint (“value”), so for the third tier, Planning Poker becomes the preferred choice for story point estimation.

So that brings us to the application of a cascading “definition of done” that applies to all three tiers of the architecture. To make this real, I encourage agile teams to collaborate on a set of questions to be asked at each tier as they progress through the process of developing their User Stories. These questions help validate each tier, and assist the team in increasing their knowledge of the functionality being requested. There are no “right” questions here, but REQM SP1.1 and RD SG3 can provide us with some good suggestions to get started. Some of the questions might be:

  • Is there an agreed-upon narrative for the Epic or User Story?
  • Is the Epic or User Story from the right source?
  • Is the Epic or User Story clearly stated so that all stakeholders understand it?
  • Is a test case written for the Epic or User Story?
  • Will funding levels still support the intended functionality?
  • Will the intended functionality meet performance requirements?
  • Have we done this before and is historical data available?
  • Do we have an experienced team delivering this Epic or User Story?
  • Is there substantial risk that needs to be mitigated for this Epic or User Story?

Understanding the status of each question provides Scrum teams with a useful tool to analyze risk for both story comprehension and sprint planning. One lightweight technique to consider is a “Confidence Matrix” that establishes a binary “strong-weak” indicator for each question. This helps teams calculate a Confidence Score and estimation multiplier for each User Story that can serve as one input into understanding the story and identifying defects before they are baked in. As teams iterate through subsequent sprints, and learn to leverage the Confidence Score as a team, they can experiment with weighted scoring if they desire more fidelity.


These are but a few small examples of leveraging the CMMI to improve requirements development in an agile environment. Since CMMI brings you the most value by helping you improve what you already do, agile teams will get even more from the model after deploying a solid requirements architecture that helps them deliver high-quality User Stories in a predictable way. Once they have that, they can look deeper into the CMMI to make it even better. Onward!

© Copyright 2014: Process Assessment, Consulting & Training and Broadsword Solutions
“Just the FAQs” is written/edited by Jeff Dalton  and Pat O’Toole.  Please contact the authors at pact.otoole@att.net and jeff@broadswordsolutions.com to suggest enhancements to their answers, or to provide an alternative response to the question posed.  New questions are also welcomed!

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation, software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Will getting a CMMI level CRUSH extra small companies?

Hey CMMI Appraiser – We are seeing a lot of government contracts going to other small agile shops that have somehow managed to get a CMMI rating. We’d like to compete, but are concerned the effort and cost of getting a CMMI level would crush us. How much does it cost to adopt CMMI? ~ Chris O’R

Hey, Chris,

You are correct. Small companies all over North America are figuring out ways to achieve the competitive advantages that CMMI can give them. So if you REALLY want to avoid getting crushed, the question is not, “How much does it cost to adopt CMMI?” The question is, “How much does it cost if we DO NOT adopt CMMI?”



As small-business leaders in our industry, we understand we need to invest in building a foundation that can support quality operations and business growth. But just because very large corporations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars adopting CMMI, there’s no need for very small companies to do the same.

That’s exactly how more small, agile organizations like yours and mine have been taking advantage of the value and opportunity CMMI brings to their business – and some are VERY small. Many are utilizing "subscription services" that are offered by various CMMI Institute Partners to help spread the cost and get the help they need at a manageable cost.

But the cool thing about the CMMI is it helps you learn to behave like a great company, without all of the overhead. For example, CMMI helps us establish an infrastructure to provide us information to understand what is going on with projects and what we need to do to get better. So if you have a lot of tedious rework, CMMI can help avoid that by bringing clarity and validation to the process by making sure the requirements are right when you get them. If you have unhappy customers, CMMI can help put a framework in place that helps you manage their expectations. If you experience a lot of chaos in your business, CMMI can help you bring stability to that as well.

And the cool thing about a subscription service is that emerging businesses like yours can take advantage of virtual tools, prepackaged events, just-enough-and-not-too-much consulting, and assistance on demand. You’ll reach your goal affordably … WITHOUT getting crushed.

More information is available at www.cmmixs.com.

Note: large organizations interested in pursuing the benefits of a CMMI adoption are invited to visit our corporate web site at www.broadswordsolutions.com.

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Spoiler Alert: Adopting the CMMI is supposed to be fun!

Hey CMMI Appraiser, our boss told us to get started with CMMI without letting us know why. I don’t like what I see so far: heavy processes, excessive documentation, compliance, CMMI certification and rules, rules, rules. Why do companies choose to adopt the CMMI? ~ Ruth A.

Hey Ruth,

The CMMI is none of those things. It is intended as a tool to help you make your job environment much better. It’s not supposed to be about filling out a lot of forms, documenting everything and forcing everyone to all behave in exactly the same way, completely without creativity. I don't blame you for being suspicious.  Those who work in large Waterfall-based organizations have seen that movie before. But guess what?


CMMI is supposed to be fun (or at least it should be)!

True, it’s no fun when the boss tells you what to do without saying why. Next thing you know, you’re doing research on engineering performance improvement methods and tools, which puts you at the mercy of so-called CMMI experts, who may soon have you convinced that the CMMI is all about soul-crushing compliance or certification.

But that’s not what the CMMI is all about. Instead, think about CMMI as a tool that helps you ask questions and learn about the way you work, so that you can get better. Consider:

  • CMMI can help make your estimates better
  • CMMI can help improve predictability and reduce late projects
  • CMMI can give your boss more information to help him understand what is going on with projects so he stops micromanaging you
  • CMMI can help avoid tedious rework by making sure the requirements are right when you get them, bringing clarity and validation to the process
  • CMMI can help put a framework in place that helps you manage client’s expectations, which leads to happier clients
  • CMMI can help you bring stability to reduce chaos in your business

… and here's a bullet point that should REALLY get your boss’ attention: 


For the truth about CMMI, Ruth, you and your boss are invited to check out our upcoming FREE webinar:

September 25, 2014 – CMMI: Everything You Need to Know!

This high level Webinar is intended for people who are just getting started with CMMI and aren’t sure how to proceed. The two-hour webinar is not a substitute for an Introduction to CMMI training class, which is a 3-day intensive. And it’s not a substitute for other types of learning. But it is a good way for you to get exposure to the truth about CMMI – so don’t miss it!

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CMMI vs. Scrum? NO! CMMI + Scrum!

"In this article, Jeff Dalton walks us through a fairly thorough application of CMMI in Scrum settings. He further demonstrates an approach to CMMI that is not only compatible with Scrum, but also uses Scrum and agile thinking to facilitate CMMI! It's not merely a matter of such-and-so Scrum practices demonstrating this-or-that CMMI practice -- that would be both easy and disingenuous. Dalton practices what he preaches and would never lead a company down a path that only solves their performance needs once, leaving them with nothing with which to fend for themselves when circumstances change. Instead, he offers us a delightfully simple and robust architecture that we can use to build processes incrementally and iteratively. How agile!" Hillel Glazer.

Download your copy of this article now, compliments of Cutter Consortium!


http://www.cutter.com/offers/agiledalton.html

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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead AppraiserCertified 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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

How granular does our CMMI process documentation need to be?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser! Settle a bet for us. How granular does our CMMI process documentation need to be? ~ Francis and  Karl

Hey, Francis and Karl! CMMI is a set of best practices. It doesn’t say you NEED to do anything. It asks you to describe how you want people to behave in a way that will make your company great. That can’t be done with documents, forms and so-called “CMMI Certification,” so whichever one of you was betting that the CMMI does NOT require an immense amount of granular detail, you win the bet.


Unfortunately, we see a lot of losers at the wheel of organizational performance improvement. They put all their chips on getting a so-called “CMMI certificate” and hope to win a CMMI Maturity Level 2 or 3. They up the ante with all tons of detailed documentation of definitions of processes.

That’s not how the game is won. You don’t come out ahead by slavishly trying to control your people with mind-numbing, soul-crushing busy-work, such as filling out documents and forms. You’ll miss the whole point of why you’re doing this. Your goal should be to get value from your process – not just to “pass” an appraisal. If you just go for the plaque on the wall, your CMMI adoption will be a disaster.

I think you get my point. You don’t need tons of documents. Why create all that burdensome, expensive process debt? Go to the level of detail that is valuable to you - and no further! As I always tell my clients, engineers are smart people. They don’t need a step-by-step process, they need guidance. And as my clients always point out, engineers will always try to create one anyway!

True. But you don’t need that. All you need is a little guidance.

My advice is that you approach CMMI for what it really is – a toolset to solve strategic problems. You can use CMMI for guidance on caring about the right things to make your organization great. Along the way, you will create a set of documentation that describes how you want people to behave in your company, and it won’t be too granular.

That’s a safe bet.

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, September 15, 2014

SPaMCast Question #7: What one big thing can we do to become a great company?

[NOTE: Over the past few weeks, this CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.]

Jeff, give us the key to being a great company. Tell us what this one big thing is and we’ll do it. Is this one big thing CMMI? Is this one big thing agile? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

Tom, when people ask me what one BIG thing they need to do to become a great company, my response is always the same: It’s not about big things. It's about LITTLE things.


For example, in my travels, when I meet CEOs, VPs, Directors, and Quality Assurance Managers from a wide variety of companies, large and small, I ask, “What would it be like if everybody on our team knew exactly what was expected of them?”

This is one of those little things that cause people to shake their heads and say, “What do you mean by that?”

And I say, well, think about what would happen if you walked through the company and you literally ask ten developers, “How long are your sprints? How many sprints in a release? When do you do your retrospectives?” If you just ask those simple questions, you'll get ten different answers. This happens everywhere because it is a very typical kind of behavior. And it is an example of the kind of behavior that can be improved with one single practice in the CMMI.

But the goal is not necessarily to adopt CMMI or embrace agile.  The goal is to consolidate the mental model of the members of your team so that everybody is on the same page. It's a little thing, but if we can do that, we can enhance productivity dramatically, without a lot of overhead.

In the context of agile, the CMMI helps you strengthen your way of doing what you do, by helping you build a resilient framework. By embracing lessons of CMMI with agile – or Waterfall, Spiral, or whatever your methodology of choice is – and building a resilient framework, you move closer to being a great company.

Those interested in learning more about using CMMI and agile to be a great company are invited to participate in our upcoming Webinar:

Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives” (in conjunction with QUEST 2015)
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 from 12-1PM EDT.
Click here to register for the webinar.

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy,performance innovation, software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

SPaMCast Question #6: What does it look like when an organization has improved productivity?

[NOTE: Over the past few weeks, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing excerpts from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.]

[NOTE II: In today’s post, Tom is following up on a question about the benefits of using agile and CMMI together to achieve higher quality, faster delivery, and predictable, repeatable results.]

Jeff, you say that by focusing on changing behaviors, organizations can be doubling and tripling productivity. How does an organization see that? What is that? Suddenly, more things getting done? More value? Less people? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast

Tom, what organizations will see is a great opportunity to take on more work. That’s what everybody wants, because the more productive they are, the more they more value they can provide for their customers, at cost that everybody is comfortable with.


You know, I’ve never been an advocate of cutting costs necessarily. To me, value is what’s most important. Value is what customers want, and will pay for. There is no shortage of value to be delivered, and no shortage of work to be done. If we are going to meet the demand, we need to learn to change behaviors, so that the people we have can deliver more value. This is not the time to cut costs.

So, you ask, how does a company do this? Well, let’s say you were going to take a large, chaotic, unproductive organization, and transform it into a great company. You have a vision for how this will happen – by delivering more value than your competitors. The way you are going to deliver more value is by getting better at what you are ALREADY doing.

Everyone knows, there is no silver bullet for success in this industry. But if it were me in charge of this turnaround, I’d use agile methods within a CMMI framework to put my company on the path to greatness. Just by applying a few simple concepts, I would be able to take on more work and deliver more value with the same amount of resources as the competitor might have.

I’ll be talking more about this concept of using agile and CMMI on upcoming webinars. I would love to have all perspectives join me by registering below:

Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives
Thursday, September 11, 2014 from 1-2PM EDT.
Click here to register for the webinar.

Agile Resiliency Scaling Agile so that it Thrives and Survives” (in conjunction with QUEST 2015)
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 from 12-1PM EDT.
Click here to register for the webinar.

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Announcing NEW “Agile Resiliency” Webinar, hosted by QUEST

Dear Readers,

Last spring, this CMMI Appraiser was honored to be the keynote speaker at the QUEST 2014 conference in Baltimore. Apparently the presentation generated a lot of discussion and debate, as I’ve been invited back to share more of my thoughts on making sure agile stays agile via a FREE webinar: "Agile Resiliency: How CMMI Will Make Agile Thrive and Survive." Be a part of the discussion by clicking HERE.


Not everyone understands at first why this is so important to them. The fact is, throughout their history, large adopters such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins, SAIC and Ford have exerted their influence on every methodology and model they've embraced.

For example, as I mentioned in a recent blog post, there was a day when Waterfall was thought to be innovative, helpful and useful.  (Hard to believe, but true!)  What happened is Waterfall methods evolved and changed to meet the information needs of the large adopters. The same will happen to agile – unless we make a concerted effort to strengthen agile and make it resistant to change.

Whenever I voice this concern, I invariably hear from trusting souls who question why large-scale early adopters would concern themselves with changing such an effective way of getting work done as agile. “These organizations have better things to do than change agile,” they complain. I always respond by pointing out that they don't MEAN to change agile.  They are merely doing business the way they’ve always done business, i.e., in a top-heavy, document-focused, command and control manner. They took a similar approach to adopting the CMMI. They took a similar approach to adopting Waterfall. And they’ll do the same to agile.

The truth is that neither Waterfall, the CMMI, nor any particular process model was ever intended to be top-heavy and document-focused. But that’s the way the large early adopters did business. Thus, that’s how the methodologies and models evolved.

And guess what? Large adopters are STILL doing business their old way! As we speak, there are hundreds of companies being influenced by organizations like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and hundreds of contractors being influenced by the Department of Defense. What do you think will happen as more and more of them start saying, "Let's be agile!"

I’ll tell you what will happen. It’s what always happens. It happens so reliably, we even have a saying for it here in Detroit, “Suppliers don’t change GM. GM changes suppliers.”

As a supplier, you can have all the best intentions and the right way of going about things, but these large new adopters have tremendous weight and momentum behind what they are doing, and you will eventually get changed. Not because they don’t want to be agile, but because they are NOT agile.

This will not be good for those of us who love agile and want to stay agile.

But there is hope.  This webinar shows you how to fight back by applying the concept of “Agile Resiliency,” a proven strategy for scaling agile by strengthening and reinforcing agile values, methods, and techniques. Agile Resiliency is about integrating the architectural strengths of the CMMI with your agile approach to help you make agile resilient enough to resist the pressure to change – and even scale and thrive.

Check out more information about the "Agile Resiliency" webinar HERE.


See you on the webinar!

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

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 trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.