01 Jun Part 5 Project Performance – Get on the path to continuous improvement
CMM / CMMI – Evolution, not revolution
Your business card reads “project manager.” You just paid your annual PMI membership dues. You’ve been to training, regularly participate in seminars and sleep with scholarly journals under your pillow (osmosis). The methodology on your desk is almost worn out; yellow sticky notes mark critical chapters. I’ll bet you could recite the cost control section by heart! You’d rather have Gantt charts papering your walls than new paint. You’ve managed countless projects, large and small. While sometimes Dilbert hits a little too close to home, you’re generally satisfied with the way your projects perform. So tell me… what’s your secret? Why do you do the things you do?
I’ll wager, if you’d do a little digging and tried to determine who originally defined the processes you call your own, you would find the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) lurking in the shadows.
The SEI is a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and operated by Carnegie Mellon University. Its core purpose is to make measured improvements in process capabilities.
Watts Humphrey and his colleagues at IBM developed the original concept for CMM in the early 1980s. He determined that the quality of an application was related directly to the quality of the process used to develop it. Humphrey wanted to implement Deming’s continuous improvement cycle – plan, do, study, act. However, improved development methods and technologies had been used for decades without much improvement.
Humphrey observed that improved practices did not survive unless the organization’s behavior changed to support them. His unique insight was that the organization had to remove impediments to continuous improvement in a specific order if they were to succeed. The process maturity framework was born, an evolutionary path to help organizations increase the capability of their processes in five stages.
Throughout the evolution through the five maturity levels, practices are transformed from an initial, ad hoc, undisciplined state into a disciplined process capable of producing predictable results. At its core, CMM is a model of organizational development and change. As an organization progresses from one level to the next, its culture is transformed through the evolutionary improvement of its processes. You can’t jump stages. One builds on the last. There’s a method to this madness – evolution, not revolution.
Level one: Initial — At this base level, practices and results are inconsistent. Processes are rarely defined and sound practices are often sacrificed to meet unreasonable schedules. Project management is weak and does not protect the plan from the disruption created by unreasonable commitments or excessive requirement changes.
Level two: Managed — It’s critical to establish a stable environment that facilitates the repetition of successful practices. Level two focuses on developing the capabilities of project managers to plan achievable commitments and gain control of requirement baselines. Projects are delivered on schedule without needing to resort to heroes and constant overtime.
Level three: Defined — After projects can repeat successful practices, organizations identify best practices from various projects and integrate them into a common methodology deployed throughout the organization. Once all projects use tailored versions of a common process, an organization can begin comparing results, sharing lessons learned and transfer people more easily among projects. When an organization can begin using historical data gathered from common processes, it’s much easier to achieve cost, functionality and scheduling targets.
Level four: Quantitatively managed — Having established common processes, an organization can develop statistical capability baselines that distinguish the expected results from performing these procedures. These baselines provide a quantitative understanding of the processes’ capability and the causes of variation within their performance. By managing the performance of its processes statistically, an organization can better predict and control project outcomes.
Level five: Optimizing — Despite the achievement of predictable results, targeted business objectives may not be achieved. At the highest level of maturity, an organization continuously evaluates the capability of its processes to pinpoint areas requiring the greatest improvement. A level-five organization establishes an infrastructure for supporting continuous change management as a fundamental, integral component of its overall system.
There are three major determinants of project performance that are represented in a triad.
You need good people no matter what you do: People that care about doing a good job and have the ability, training and education needed to carry out their responsibilities.
A carpenter needs hammers, saws, rulers – a full tool box. A project manager needs technology. Scheduling, portfolio management, risk management and communication tools are all requirements of successful project management.
While process is often described as a leg of the triad, it may also be considered the glue that unifies it. Remember that a process is a set of practices performed to achieve a given purpose; it may include tools, methods, materials and/or people. The quality of a product is largely determined by the quality of the process that is used to develop and maintain it.
No matter what you do or how you plan to do it, recognize that there are no silver bullets. But there are constant threads that run through all the methodologies…
Relate improvements to overall plans and goals.
Accept improvement will come in small, incremental steps.
Recognize reactive changes generally make things worse.
Believe crisis prevention is more important than crisis recovery.
Accept continuous improvement as a way of life.
The next article will explore the 6 Sigma and what defect prevention has to do with project management.
Michael J. Weymier, PMP, is founder of PM Maturity and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.