These are provocative questions but relevant in so many places in IT and business. Many of of us hearing the terms capability maturity measurement (CMM) will immediately switch off, but please keep reading, I promise not to be as boring as the average CMM survey in this blog entry!
We have seen these methods applied across many business and IT processes in recent years. For a while every organisation wanted to be CMM rated to the top level 5 in all sorts of areas – disaster and business continuity planning, development processes, data management, IT security and many others. Just recently I have seen the latest offerings in supplier and vendor management approached in the same way. For a time every senior manager pushed by consultancies was jumping on the bandwagon of assessment. One can wonder how many initiatives in this area have now been assigned to the archives or are gathering dust somewhere. Having said this, I don’t believe that the need has gone away even if the latest fashions have moved on to other areas.
Let us remember that every organisation has processes and the aim of capability maturity projects was purely to change culture regarding processes from one of passive acceptance to one of proactive management; this is no bad thing. As with all things CMM was just a brand for reaching pro-actively managed processes. The life cycle could be put simply as measure it, monitor it, control it, forecast it and finally manage it. Nothing new, easily said but changing the culture of organisations to be proactive is not easy.
Lets face it, we could drive a car with no idea where we are, how fast we are going and where we are steering but it would not be without accidents. How much better to first work out where you are, then plan a route to where you want to be and make sure you monitor progress and speed on that route, changing to adapt to the environment on the journey. Taken to a new view you can apply the CMM type of approach – measure/monitor/control/forecast/manage – to every set for processes in an organisation, and a well managed organisation will adopt this automatically across everything. I venture that less mature organisations know how they are failing and how mature they are; formal assessment of this just ratifies what is already known or felt.
I am sure the surveys I mentioned above have their place but the key is establishing the right culture so that the assessments are almost not needed. What better place to start than with the strategy of the organisation – is your approach to strategy mature and capable, or phrased another way – do you know where you are? Are you monitoring the implementation and decisions? Are you forecasting the impact and are you actively managing it? Most of us would never have thought to apply the techniques to such a high level process, but clearly looking at this in the right way can embed the right culture across the organisation. So are you capable? Are you mature?