I guess it’s about time for me to jump into the deep water. With this post, I will begin the discussion of what to my mind are key differences between CMMI and Six Sigma. In fairness to both approaches, I’ll probably take a few posts to discuss the differences that I feel are crucial to characterizing each approach/ method.

Let me start by saying, obviously, there are differences. The mere fact that both approaches and industries exist ought to provide a clue to the fact that there are uniquenesses. But what are the most crucial uniquenesses?  The key distinctions which I intend to discuss include the unique:

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CMMI and Six Sigma grew out of separate industries; and as might be expected, each approach carries with it certain key assumptions rooted in their source industry.

According to Investopia: “The terms industry and sector are often used interchangeably to describe a group of companies that operate in the same segment of the economy or share a similar business type. Although the terms are commonly used interchangeably, they do, in fact, have slightly different meanings. This difference pertains to their scope; a sector refers to a large segment of the economy, while the term industry describes a much more specific group of companies or businesses.

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CMMI is designed to provide a “what to do guide” or “road-map” on a per discipline basis.

Six Sigma primarily provides techniques and tools for measuring tracking and validating improvement efforts. Again to quote Investopia on Six Sigma:” [it is a] quality-control program [that was] developed in 1986 by Motorola. Initially, it emphasized cycle-time improvement and reducing manufacturing defects to a level of no more than 3.4 per million. Since then, Six Sigma has evolved into a more general business-management philosophy focused on meeting customer requirements, improving customer retention, and improving and sustaining business products and services. Six Sigma is applicable to all industries.”

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To quote Wikipedia on Six Sigma: [it] originated as a set of practices designed to improve manufacturing processes and eliminate defects, but its application was subsequently extended to other types of business processes as well. In Six Sigma, a defect is defined as any process output that does not meet customer specifications, or that could lead to creating an output that does not meet customer specifications.

CMMI, on the other-hand,,”[…] was developed by a group of experts from industry, government, and the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University. CMMI models provide guidance for developing or improving processes that meet the business goals of an organization. A CMMI model may also be used as a framework for appraising the process maturity of the organization.[..] CMMI originated in software engineering but has been highly generalised over the years to embrace other areas of interest[…]”

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I think it goes without saying that Six Sigma is more broadly recognized, globally, than CMMI. Six Sigma spans almost all industries and countries.

CMMI, on the other-hand, is viewed as being primarily oriented towards the US Government (Department of Defense- DoD) or other large industrial purchasers as a credentialing or discipline validation approach.

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Six Sigma benefits, most often, are viewed as an internal (self-oriented) benefit to and by those engaged in the effort.

CMMI, more often, is seen as being undertaken or performed because some outside entity requires or mandates the credentialing.

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Over the next several posts, I will discuss in greater detail each of these uniquenesses, such as I view and understand them.  Again, as I noted at the outset of this series, should you have any queries, concerns, or items you wish to see discussed, please use our contact page to let me know.

Mark Rabideau is a SEI SCAMPI High Maturity Lead Appraiser and Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is also licensed to teach both the CMMI-DEV and SVC constellations’ courses. Hard as it is to believe, Mark has been at this sort of thing since 1990.You may contact him directly by using the PEP contact page.