Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Agile Capability Maturity Model

Agile Capability Maturity Model

After all the differences we have talked about, the question arises. Does it make sense to have a Capability Maturity Model for Agile? How would it be? Let’s analyze the semantics of the words again, but in an Agile context.

What does it means to be capable, in an agile context?

In the CMMI model, Capability was defined as “the inherent ability of a process to produced the planned results. As the capability of a process improves, the process becomes predictable and measurable, the quality of the result product augments and the productivity of the teams too”. Thus, an organization gets more capable when it has defined and implemented a set of processes throughout the organization that enables it to be predictable, measurable, and continuously improving.

Does the word have the same meaning in an agile context? Agility is more like a mindset or culture than a set of processes. Thus, in Agile you are capable when you have the mindset and the organization is capable when it has the mindset. The semantics of the word changes considerably and worst of all, it makes it unmeasurable. How would you measure how much of the mindset the organization has? Nonetheless, and perhaps very subjectively, one can recognize a team/organization that is more Agile than another. You do it because it adheres better to the Agile values (communication, collaboration, technical excellence, etc). Using this subjectivity, perhaps we can define the meaning of capable in an Agile context. One is capable when it has grasped the Agile values, when you are at the Ri level (in the Shu-Ha-Ri scale) or, as some people say, when you ARE agile. 

How do you get more mature?

Using CMMI, you get more mature as you implement the different processes that conform the model throughout the organization, you can measure them and draw conclusions out of the metrics that allows the organization to improve. 

If we follow the definition of capability in an Agile context given above, the definition of maturity falls in the subjective side as well. An organization is more mature when it can communicate better, it can collaborate better, is able to produce its products with the required quality sustainably, etc. 

Senge talks about the intelligent organization. A mature Agile organization is an intelligent organization. It’s an organization where its members are smart agents that collaborate among them to solve problems and improve continuously. Today’s knowledge organization need to mature in this direction.

The Schneider Culture Model

This diagram is taken from The Reengineering Alternative: A plan for making your current culture work, the book by William Schneider. In it, there are 4 cultures. Each has its name, picture and some words that characterized the quadrant.

There are also two axis that indicate where the focus or an organization is:
  1. Horizontal: People Oriented (Personal) vs. Company Oriented (Impersonal)
  2. Vertical: Reality Oriented (Actuality) vs. Possibility Oriented
And if we map the Agile values and principles to this model...

We can see how Agile mainly falls into the collaboration and cultivation cultures. I believe that the introduction of CMMI in an Agile Culture moves the culture to the “Control” quadrant. Many people believe this is the way to scale agile and therefore it could be argued that CMMI could be a good way to scale Agile. I don’t feel very comfortable with this idea, as I believe that a good maturity framework should allow the organization to mature without losing its values, its heart. In other words, I believe the maturity needs to happen in the collaboration/cultivation quadrant mainly and the competence one. 


A capability maturity framework for Agile needs to redefine the meanings of capability and maturity to suit the context as being capable and mature have very different semantics in the CMMI world and the Agile one. An Agile Capability Maturity Model should make the organization mature towards a collaboration/cultivation culture. The Agile definitions of capable and mature makes introduce a lot of subjectivity. Could we still measure the results?

1 comment:

  1. The blog is quite good to get idea about Intro to CMMI and it really helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing the post.