Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is the Organizational Process Focus Process Area compatible with Agile?


“The purpose of Organizational Process Focus (OPF) is to plan, implement, and deploy organizational process improvements based on a thorough understanding of the current strengths and weaknesses of the organization’s processes and process assets.”

Below are the specific goals and practices:

SG 1 Determine Process Improvement Opportunities
SP 1.1 Establish Organizational Process Needs
SP 1.2 Appraise the Organization’s Processes
SP 1.3 Identify the Organization's Process Improvements
SG 2 Plan and Implement Process Improvements
SP 2.1 Establish Process Action Plans
SP 2.2 Implement Process Action Plans
SG 3 Deploy Organizational Process Assets and Incorporate Lessons Learned
SP 3.1Deploy Organizational Process Assets
SP 3.2 Deploy Standard Processes
SP 3.3 Monitor Implementation
SP 3.4 Incorporate Process-Related Experiences into the Organizational Process Assets

How would an Agile organization do process improvement?

My experience in the Agile world has always been in particular projects. This means we were doing Agile in those projects, but the organization as a whole was not Agile (Probably this is the case for the majority of the Agile projects …?) Why am I saying this? Well, because I was thinking how should process improvement at the organizational level should be performed in an Agile organization, but I am a complete ignorant in this regard. Anyway, If I think how we do process improvement in a particular project with Agile and I scale it to the organization, probably the result would be something very similar to what the CMMI proposes. First, determining the process improvement opportunities (retrospection), then make a plan, deploy it and monitor how it is going.

What would change at the organizational level?
1. Organizational level goals may not coincide %100 with project level goals: Cockburn says they are 2 different games, the project one and the organization one (and the one that the employees are playing). I believe that having to fulfill a process area like this one may really help an Agile organization align its projects.
2. Implementation is much harder: Depending on the organization, teams are different and have different contexts. The problem is much more difficult to resolve.
3. Need for a specific team to handle this: this may be a consequence of the previous point. The CMMI says and I agree, that a specific team that handle process improvement in the organization is needed.

There’s something I like to add to the previous points. The CMMI does never mention the employees as a source for process improvement initiatives and underestimate the importance of them in the implementation in my opinion. I believe that team empowerment is vital to any process improvement initiative. As the Poppendieck’s stated in their book “The people on the front line combine the knowledge of the minute details with the power of many minds”. I believe this is also related with the mentality needed for Kaizen. If all employees are constantly thinking how to improve the current processes, the results may be amazing.


I believe the CMMI goals and practices are completely compatible in this area. Knowledge from the lean methods of process improvement should be incorporated to make the process area even better.

Other Areas 

- Is the Validation Process Area compatible with Agile?
- Is the Verification Process Area compatible with Agile?
- Is the Product Integration Process Area compatible with Agile? 
- Is the Technical Solution Process Area compatible with Agile? 
- Is the Requirements Development Process Area compatible with Agile?
- Is the Configuration Management Process Area compatible with Agile?

- Is the Requirements Management Process Area compatible with Agile?
- Is the Project Monitoring and Control Process Area compatible with Agile?
- Is the Project Planning Process Area compatible with Agile?

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