graphsOne of the more prevalent process issues organizations wrestle with seems to involve the appropriateness and wisdom of moving to higher levels of process discipline. In the CMMI world, this is generally referred to as Achieving Higher Levels of Process Maturity; in other domains, you may hear it referred to as SPC (Statistical Process Control), evidence informed management, or similar.

Addressing this issue minimally entails three major decision points:

  1. How do I make the move from where I am?
  2. Is it worth the effort?
  3. How do I know when we have achieved our objective(s)?

Before you can “know” whether or not you have met or achieved your objective, you need to have an objective.  I know it seems strange to make that point, but you would be amazed how many organizations ‘fly’ without an objective, or objectives, in mind.  And… many of those organizations that do have objectives believe their objectives should be or are static and stable.

The first task then is for an organization to establish its objectives.  These need to be clear, unambiguous, and relevant. For examples, here are links to a couple of articles on the topic:

Once you have established an objective or set of objectives, your journey can begin.  Well, I’m here to tell you (via a string of quotes):

  • “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” Arthur Ashe
  • “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” Niels Bohr
  • “Probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilities.” Aristotle
  • “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” H. L. Mencken
  • “The purpose of science is not to analyze or describe but to make useful models of the world.  A model is useful if it allows us to get use out of it.” Edward de Bono
  • “Caesar recognized the omens, but he didn’t believe they applied to him.” Nate Silver

So what do these quotes really tell us? Simply that life is complex; there are clues and “surprises” to be found; and we should pay attention to the clues around us.  Stated another way, pay attention to the road. If you don’t, you will not arrive safely! Or still another way:

Meeting a business objective is a lot like sailing.  You have to tack to take advantage of the wind; and your destination may be altered because of the weather (circumstances).

Here I should note, a couple of readers have asked, when are you going to justify or argue for going to higher levels of process maturity?  Why do we need to think about advancing beyond Maturity Level 3?  So here’s my answer.  I won’t do that for a couple of reasons:

  • The concept of Maturity Levels is, too often, just a CMMI “thing.”
  • If we focus primarily on the CMMI (pick your flavor, DEV,SVC,ACQ), I think we limit options to our detriment.
  • Staying put is, also, not a viable option. For proof, see the second law of Thermodynamics, also commonly known as the Law of Entropy.

What I will argue for is that organizations are wise to focus on advancing [their] process maturity (ergo the title of this series). Organizations should take advantage of what they know, have learned, and need to achieve.  They should “data mine” their experience(s) and infer outcomes based upon “what they can (are able to) know”. They should leverage their experience(s) to work in ways that ensure their important business objectives are met.  All this is to say, organizations should:

  1. Know (understand) how they work
  2. Understand how to produce their best outcomes
  3. Be engaged with their customers and markets to react appropriately to changing business requirements
  4. Learn from their experiences
  5. Project potential outcomes of their effort (work) in terms of meeting their objectives.

In the previous article in this series, I provided a list of potential progress indicators/ measures.  Those measures ‘can’ provide gauges towards meeting desired business outcomes.  But that list is neither exhaustive nor necessarily appropriate for all businesses. Organizations can certainly have and use other indicators.  The essential facts remain, organizations need to know both where they want (need) to go and how to track, measure, and project/ predict progress towards attaining those objectives.  If an organization is able to do this, they will have begun “Advancing (their) Process Maturity”

In subsequent articles, I will discuss several related topics including:

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau is a Management Mentor/ Coach with over 40 years of Engineering and Management Experience. He is a CMMI Institute 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. You may contact Mark directly by using the PEP contact page.