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Integrating the CMMI and Six Sigma: Strategies

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The authors of CMMI and Six Sigma offer possible sequencing scenarios, followed by frequently observed strategic approaches to the joint implementation of the CMMI and Six Sigma, and integrated deployment tactics.
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If one accepts the value proposition that synergistic implementation of multiple standards and initiatives accelerates the improvement journey and renders it more effective, then the next question is how to go about it. There is not a "one size fits all" solution to this question. However, several common approaches and considerations can be leveraged.

In this chapter, we build on Chapter 4's research and Chapter 5's case studies and highlight possible sequencing scenarios, followed by frequently observed strategic approaches to the joint implementation of the CMMI and Six Sigma. Then we proceed with a discussion of integrated deployment tactics. The Motorola case is revisited here, with a field report on Six Sigma deployment, specifically focusing on integrated training.

6.1 Sequencing Scenarios

One way for an organization to begin reasoning about a joint implementation is to consider its starting point in terms of CMMI and Six Sigma deployment and performance. Figure 6-1 shows several possible paths, with different possible starting points.

  • Path 1 (solid): Implement the CMMI to high maturity, and then implement Six Sigma. In this approach, the CMMI is likely to be the organizational governance model, with Six Sigma methods used in an isolated fashion to help with the implementation of specific process areas and practices. After high maturity is achieved, Six Sigma is formally adopted as the means for continuing process improvement.
  • Path 2 (dash): Institutionalize Six Sigma fully and then the CMMI. In this approach, Six Sigma is likely to be the governance model, with the CMMI (and other standards) being selected to close problematic gaps in process infrastructure.
  • Path 3 (dot): Jointly implement and institutionalize Six Sigma and the CMMI from the beginning. In this approach, the two initiatives may alternate as the governance model or the tactical engine. For instance, Six Sigma may lead the organization to deploy particular CMMI process areas, and it may dictate a lean process infrastructure. The CMMI may lead the organization to quickly identify critical process factors as well as opportunities against which to apply the Six Sigma frameworks.
  • Path 4 (dash-dot): Implement the CMMI to level 3, then establish Six Sigma and proceed with a joint implementation. In this scenario, the organization first establishes its defined processes and then uses Six Sigma in its quest for high maturity.
Figure 6-1

Figure 6-1 Sequencing scenarios

The question that arises by examining joint deployment from this perspective is whether there is strategic advantage in implementing the CMMI first and then Six Sigma, or vice versa, or implementing them in tandem. In truth, the choice about which path to pursue depends on the organization's circumstances when it decides to pursue synergistic, rather than parallel/independent implementation of the initiatives. In some cases, a sequential path is dictated by current reality. For instance, a CMMI adoption may be well under way when the enterprise levies the adoption of Six Sigma on the organization. Or an enterprise may have institutionalized Six Sigma and be well into the process of extending it into engineering when the non-software-oriented Black Belts realize that there is no established software process infrastructure or measurement system (as there is in manufacturing). Presuming they have awareness of domain-specific models and standards, they then face the equivalent of a "build or buy" decision: invent software process infrastructure from scratch or tailor what the community has codified.

Thoughtful, joint implementation throughout the entire improvement journey (path 3) is likely to be the most efficient path, but only if the engineering process group and the organization are ready for that approach. In some contexts, due to politics, previous organizational training, and many other factors, implementing one and then the other may be more ideal. Either way, it comes back to the matters of choice, conscious strategic decision making, and thoughtful designs.

Happenstance and timing issues notwithstanding, an organization can be successful with any of the paths.

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