A Tale of Change in Two Organizations – CMMI

Recently I was talking with a company that has achieved the level 3 (defined) CMMI from the Software Engineering Institute that provides a measure of an organizations maturity and capability.  During this conversation, I had a flash to another company that had aspirations of being a level 3 but could never make it beyond their starting level of 1 (initial).  These two companies were markedly different though both companies handled software and both are in the automotive industry.

The lower scoring company has been around for many years and while having aspirations of being a CMMI[1] level 3 certified company is interesting, the ability to achieve it is something entirely different.  That takes planning and work.  The company that was relatively young could work to establish the performance expectation and processes as it was growing aiming toward the CMMI level as it was growing.  Meaning, they did not have to overcome as much inertia as the long standing company, there were fewer bad habits to correct at company start up and any bad habits are not engrained in the personnel.

Another very noticeable difference is the size and geographic distribution of the two companies.  The higher CMMI scoring company is located entirely on one campus; the other has a global footprint distributed across the globe with competing priorities and undefined and often conflicting responsibilities.  This exacerbates the inertia problem based upon habit.

I do not know enough about the higher CMMI level company but I do know the larger and inferior rated CMMI company frequently changes direction at the top, and does not drive the change initiatives through the organization. To make the change to something new requires persistence and patience to move from where you are to where you wish to be.  To be sure making a systemic organizational change does not happen quickly, especially for well-established companies with employees indoctrinated or inculcated to work contrary to the principles espoused in the new way of working.  To make the change requires focus on the objectives and taking deliberate actions that result in the end goal being achieved while adjusting to what is learned by doing the work.  It is not as simple as proclaim the objective and forget it like laser guided munitions; neither does the change happen with the big bang.

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