Posts Tagged ‘Capability Model’

Toward a Next Generation Capability Maturity Model

Posted on September 7th, 2009 by Dennis Stevens  |  2 Comments »

You may already know that Mike Cottmeyer and I signed a contract to produce a book that describes situation specific approaches to scaling Agile in the Enterprise. This book is based on the work Mike and I have done over the last 10 years or so in helping organizations improve their ability to deliver value to their customers. While we have done the customer engagements separately, we think about this in a similar way and have been able to consistently deliver results to our clients.

Mike and I need to write about 157,000 words over the next 9 months to produce the content for the book. We will be blogging most of the ideas as we write the book and really look forward to your comments and feedback on our approach. Learning to tell the story so it resonates is really important to achieving our goal of writing a book that is very valuable to managers in organizations who are facing the Scaling Agile challenge.

Common Capability Model

A Capability is “an ability or capacity the organization relies on for a specific purpose or outcome”. We focus on capabilities because we are initially interested in What and Why, not on How. Getting caught up in How without clarity on What and Why is common in methodology debates. We Call this the “How Trap”. Using a capability analysis approach we have been able to get people out of what we call the “How Trap” and get them thinking about purposes and outcomes.

As a core part of communicating how managers can develop situation specific strategies for scaling Agile, we are building out a common capability model. Why not use an existing model? Well, we are working from the understanding that there is no single model that is outcome/purpose focused that can be used to build out the scaling. We need to build that base – not by recreating it from scratch but by building on top of traditional models that have worked at the enterprise level, like CMMI and PMI, as well as Agile approaches that have worked at the team level like Open RUP, Scrum, and XP.

As I introduce this capability model, I will start from a Scrum/XP perspective even though those methods are based on practices and not Capabilities. For example, iterations in Scrum and short releases in XP are about Limiting Work in Progress. So is incremental development in Open RUP. I will introduce the Big Agile Capability Model in terms of  Agile practices. I will show how they are complementary to the traditional models and how this outcome-based understanding helps us develop a situation specific approach to scale. Finally, I will talk about common dysfunctions in organizations that limit effectiveness.

Capability Analysis

I have been working on this consolidated capability model for a few years. At a number of clients, I have used an approach based on a consolidation of CMMI, OPM3, XP, and Scrum. More recently I have included Kanban and the Open RUP in the model. At higher levels of scaling I rely on some other capability models like the Process Classification Framework, ITIL, Pragmatic Product Management, and the Business Architecture work I did at Microsoft. The goal is always to find a way to talk about outcomes and purposes before we talk about implementation.

The trick is in translating these jargon specific detailed models into something straight-forward that facilitates the development of situation specific strategies for scaling Agile. This is a challenge that Mike and I are working through now. Before everyone pukes on the idea of basing our approach on a capability based model, I want to cover a couple of important things.

First, I am not a big fan of staged models. I get the concept of CMMI’s levels of maturity – it is important to establish maturity in the lower level processes to gain benefit from the higher level processes. But I believe an organization can make progress on higher-level processes while they don’t have all the lower level processes in place. The capabilities are interdependent and so can’t be addressed in a linear manner.

In OPM3, the model is not staged. You pick an area of focus, such as project cost or program risk, and the model will walk your though capabilities related to that strategic area. Like OPM3, our model is not staged or prescriptive in nature. We talk about these in an order, but in reality, the team needs to be focused on improving capabilities based what makes the most sense for a specific situation.

Second, I don’t like the idea that Product Development, Project Management, and Software Engineering ( are evaluated separately and independently of other the rest of the organization. They are too tightly integrated in real life once you get past the small team to be treated separately. At the end of the day, there is no point in getting better at any of these areas if it doesn’t result in an improvement in delivery of value to the customer.

Finally, one problem I have with formal capability models in adoption is that these models come off as overly complicated, prescriptive, and aren’t typically treated as situation specific. Typical models drive the conversation, “What do I have to do to pass an audit”. We want to change the conversations in the business to, “What is the next most important thing we can focus on to improve our ability to deliver value to my customers”.

The Big Agile Capability Model

The model that Mike and I are working on starts with Small Team Agile. We build this out to Horizontal Scaling, where you have multiple teams doing Agile development on distinct outputs. Then we build out to First Order Scaling, where multiple Agile teams are working together on a single product. At Second Order Scaling, multiple Agile teams are working on multiple products. At Third Order Scaling, we are working to leverage the ability to rapidly deliver working software across the Enterprise. Wrapped around this is a set of common capabilities that apply to every level of scaling. Over the next several days I am going to describe the capability model we have derived from our experience and research. As with everything else in the book, this model is subject to change.

I am going to describe the Small Team agile capabilities over the next few days. Over the next few weeks, I will go into the capabilities associated with Horizontal scaling, then First Order, Second Order, and Third Order scaling.

As we go through our approach, please share your thoughts – good and bad – with the approach and how it is being communicated. We need to make sure this is valuable contribution to the body of works hoping to improve our ability to deliver high quality products that meet the needs of customer.