- What Assessments Do
- The Four Principal Functions of Assessments
- The Analytical Function of Assessments
- Assessments Function as Fulcrums of Positive Change
- Assessments Transform Organizations by the Way They Work
- Assessments Educate as They Analyze, Motivate, and Transform
- Why Gaming the Results of an Assessment Doesn't Help (Though Many Try)
- Can Assessments Really Change an Organization? A Preview of an Extended Case History to Be Found in Chapter 12
- Bottom-Line Profit and Cost Numbers: Assessments Pay
1.3 The Analytical Function of Assessments
Assessment analysis depends not only on objective procedures but also on criteria established by a reference model. As we mentioned earlier, models are integrated global descriptions of the way that many good practices fit together and of the stages in which different good practices should be introduced so that they can build on each other, not compete or cancel each other out. That is, rather than being a catalogue of individual good practices, they involve the notion of maturity levelsa logical process of staged improvements.
1.3.1 The Importance of Reference Models
The core appeal of capability maturity models is that they promise a structured and therefore stable procedure to implement positive changes. The most important current software improvement models have been created by integrating the best practices of the most successful software development companies around the world into a step-by-step framework for implementing process improvement. At present, this means above all the capability maturity models developed since 1984 at the Software Engineering Institutethe CMM for Software [Paulk et al, 94] and the CMM Integration [Chrissis et al, 03].
1.3.2 Assessments Stabilize Process and Prioritize Change
The crux of the SEI-based assessment reference models is a vision of how organizations stabilize themselves so that random efforts toward improvement can evolve into structured, reliable, and continuous building of strength upon strength. For both the CMM and the staged version of the CMMI (see Chapter 2 for further details), five capability maturity levels are posited: Level 1 represents a condition in which processes are unarticulated and improvements are random and sometimes contradictory. At Level 2, project management processes are stabilized and articulated so that technical developments can be approached in a predictable way. At Level 3, the best project and technical processes are identified and institutionalized in an organization-wide platform so that the organization can centrally support improvement efforts, including training. At Level 4, both projects and the central organization begin to use baseline measurements to compare the strengths and weaknesses of past and current processes and products. At Level 5, the organization and the projects are able reliably to anticipate risk and bring in new technology with a firm grasp of the consequences of change, and to initiate programs of continuous improvement in a systematic and measured way.
In short, assessments analyze not just whether organizations perform functions well but also, in reference to a process improvement model, whether they are likely to reliably generalize lessons of continued and increasing excellence out of local successes.