The CMM and TW (was: Can strong process create writers?)

Subject: The CMM and TW (was: Can strong process create writers?)
From: Simon North <north -at- SYNOPSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 14:21:26 +0001

With all deference Jim,

> I've done a little study of the Capability Maturity Model, and one
> of the principles I got from it was that a mature process is not
> only flexible, but changes readily to accommodate improvement.
> Seems to me that such a process, by definition, could not be an end
> unto itself.

I spent a year working in the Q&A group of the software R&D
department of a large defense supplier. One of my jobs was to assist
in performing CMM audits and I studied all aspects of the CMM in
detail. I have a *lot* of problems with applying the CMM to tech
writing and recent publications along that line distress me a lot.

With my asbestos suit firmly in place, there's a lot of rubbish being
written by a lot of very intelligent people about something they have
completely failed to understand.

The CMM eventually proposes a self-improving process (level 5), with
a separate group responsible for monitoring and guiding process
improvement. There are (were) only two level 5 organizations: a
Motorola team in India and the NASA shuttle software team. The
shuttle software is so antiquated it should be in a museum -- except
that it's so full of bugs they'd be ashamed for it to be seen in
public and, informed sources tell me, the Motorola effort was a con
job (they had a second team in parallel, the assessed team did no
production work).

I think that we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the CMM was
originally developed under DoD auspices as an objective method for
comparing two tendering software companies. IMNSHO, it's growth into
an unproven, untested model for quality assurance initiatives has
become blown out of all proportion. It isn't even as if it were
anything new. For example. Why 5 levels? Simple, it's based on the
traditional Denning model. You'd do far better to look again at ISO

Maybe I'd better get off my soapbox and get back to work ...

Simon North

"Presenting XML", "Teach Yourself XML in 21 Days".
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