The Capability Maturity Models and their Usefulness for Organizations

Capability Maturity Models

When organizations want to be certified for their quality or operational excellence, they usually turn to quality frameworks like Six Sigma, Kaizen, or TQM. These are just representative of the different quality and operational excellence models and there are many other frameworks as well. Similarly, there are process capability models like the SEI-CMM model (Software Engineering Institute - Capability Maturity Model) or the iCMM, which is specific to software companies, and the PCMM, which is an indicator of the HRM process capability or the people management capability. All these models pertain to how well the organizations are mature in terms of the Processual aspects. For instance, for a long time in the 1990s and the 2000s, many software companies made it a point to get themselves certified as SEI-CMM capable because the trend and the fad during those decades was for Processual maturity which was widely seen as an indicator of how well these companies managed their processes. Apart from this, there were other drivers of change like the widespread perception that Asian software companies (especially in India) were not processual to the extent that the western companies were. This was the reason why the SEI-CMM model was widely adopted by Indian software companies as it was touted as a badge of Processual maturity.

The SEI-CMM Framework

These frameworks like the quality and the operational excellence frameworks were based on how defined and optimizing the companies were with respect to processes and maturity in terms of quality and operational excellence. The SEI-CMM model had five stages that were initial or undefined, repeatable, defined, managed, and optimizing that were deemed to indicate the extent to which the organization’s processes were mature. The first stage was when the organizations did not have any defined processes in place and this stage was supposed to mean that the organization resembled a chaotic and unplanned approach to processes. The second stage was when the processes in the organization were mature enough to be repeatable which meant that the organization was able to repeat them across the organization. The third stage was when the processes were defined though not managed which meant that the company was yet to apply standard metrics for determining Processual maturity. The third stage was when the knowledge from a particular project could be carried over to the next project and where the processes were mature enough to be replicated across the organization. The fifth stage or the highest maturity stage was when the organization was capable of optimizing the processes with each iteration, which meant that there was a conscious continuous improvement plan in place.

How Asian companies view the CMM Model

These stages were deemed indicators of how well the organization had matured in terms of process capability and how well the organization was engaging in process improvement with each iteration. It is interesting to note that the trend of process maturity was seen by many in Asia as a worthy business model whereas some behemoths like Microsoft are still not process mature. The reason for this as advanced by some experts is that process maturity is not the holy grail of innovative companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple that thrived on instant improvement and improvisation. When contrasted with the earlier assertion that this CMM framework was adopted widely in the East, the implication is that the Indian and Chinese companies were eager to portray themselves as being mature in terms of processes and saw this certification as a route to proving themselves to be on par with the western companies that were already mature according to the CMM framework.

Concluding Thoughts

Finally, certification according to the CMM model has its advantages, these outweigh the costs, and the time and effort put in by organizations to get themselves certified. This is because unlike the industry leaders who are anyway perceived to be role models despite not being certified, the Asian companies had a need to portray themselves as being process capable and process mature.


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