How to implement and sustain a process improvement program

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How to Implement and Sustain a Process Improvement Program

CMMI Maturity Level 3

Maturity Level 3,
the process improvement team looks for the definition and use of organizational process needs and objectives. This step should be a natural evolution of the foundation that you originally began at Maturity Level 2 in Measurement and Analysis which initiated the measurements program. Manyorganizations put the process improvement team in place as they begin their process improvement program and in turn, these organizations actually work on these two aspects of the measurement program concurrently. At Maturity Level 2, most companies are initiating their measurements program and then “mature” these items as they continue to “institutionalize” their processes and measures over time—asthey move towards Maturity Level 3.

That said, CMMI Maturity Level 3 is often recognized as the first “sustainable” level. Why? Many individuals believe that organizational measurements are in place and matured at this level in order to show the inherent benefits of the internal process improvement program. While it is fairly easy to get management committed to process improvement based onpublished industry benefits, this situation will only “buy” you approximately one year for your process improvement program. After this amount of time has passed, management typically wants to see what the organization’s own internal benefits are specifically. Without a doubt, this approach certainly appears to be a valid one.

Thus, by CMMI Maturity Level 3, organizations should be able to provethe benefits and efficiencies of their process improvement efforts. Organizations should also be able to show continued improvement (as required by practices in the model) as they continue to operate at Maturity Level 3 or continue to Maturity Level 4 or Level 5.

From experience, I know that successful programs follow the steps that I have described above. The unsuccessful organizations,—theorganizations that do not achieve their target Levels - or do not maintain these Levels—almost always reveal the same errors. For instance, these organizations do not have sufficient data to showcase the benefits of their process improvement activities, or the companies just have a minimal amount of data to satisfy the model requirements. Since the process improvement efforts compete with otherprojects that show a projected rate of return for resources, there should be quantifiable process improvement benefits. Thus, your organization must continue to prove the value of your activities and the reasons as to why your company should continue to apply the proper resources to process improvement. If you are implementing this program appropriately, there are substantial benefits; however, youmust communicate these benefits to the appropriate contacts if you wish to continue to have support for the program. In other words, you can do just enough to get by and achieve a Level rating. But to get “real improvement”, you must really understand, implement appropriately, measure and continuously improve.

Along similar lines, another extremely important aspect of measurements andsustainability involves “communications”. While it is pretty obvious that you should communicate the benefits and efficiencies to management, ideally you should also communicate these benefits and efficiencies to everyone in the organization. After all, quite a bit of work is involved in implementing change, and gathering the required data to evaluate and sustain process improvement. Thus, in order toensure that you continue to get the data you require, to ensure that this data is in fact accurate, and that people in the organization see the results of their efforts (adhering to processes and gathering data) you must regularly communicate results and explain just how the data is used for this program. In other words, once people realize the results of implementing process improvement, they are...
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