Effective and Measurable Results from Combining CMMI and Six Sigma


This library item is related to the following area(s) of work:

Process Improvement

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: January 1, 2008

A new book, CMMI and Six Sigma: Partners in Process Improvement, was released in December 2007 by Jeannine M. Siviy, deputy director for the Dynamic Systems Program at the SEI; M. Lynn Penn, director of process management at Lockheed Martin; and Robert M. Stoddard, a senior member of the SEI technical staff.

“If people combine the initiatives thoughtfully, they can achieve more effective and measurable results from their process improvement efforts, and they can get results that are better aligned to their business needs and mission,” Siviy explained in a recent interview. “For instance, our research includes data from organizations that have achieved their CMMI implementation objectives significantly faster than average, and in a way that is well aligned with business objectives.”

Not long after her arrival at the SEI in 2000, Siviy, who was initially hired into the Software Engineering Measurement and Analysis (SEMA) initiative, began fielding questions about CMMI and Six Sigma and how the two relate. Penn, who has worked closely with the SEI on several initiatives and is highly regarded in the process improvement community as a CMMI pioneer, had also been fielding a lot of questions regarding CMMI, Lean, and Six Sigma—particularly Lean with its focus on time, and the variant of Six Sigma that was first adopted in Penn’s organization. The two began collaborating on tutorials and presentations as well as a 2005 SEI technical note. The book seemed a natural extension of their work—a way to document the voiceover from the tutorials and presentations delivered over the years and also to extend more deeply into and beyond the topics they traditionally presented.

The book explores many aspects of combining CMMI and Six Sigma, to deal with the inevitable challenges any organization faces when trying to combine the two.

“There are a lot of challenges with CMMI and Six Sigma. A significant challenge is the perception that CMMI and Six Sigma are competitive, rather than complementary—leading to either/or adoption decisions, rather than joint implementation. Once this hurdle is overcome, there are questions about how they logically and technically fit together—what are the distinguishing features and what are the overlaps? Who gets trained? How do they get trained? Who is responsible to figure out a joint implementation? And so on,” Siviy explained. Consequently, the book includes the value proposition for joint implementation and both strategies and implementation tactics. It features two organizational case studies and also contains several illustrations describing real-life process and product improvement projects using Six Sigma (DMAIC and DFSS) and Lean methodologies in a CMMI context.

Siviy, a chemical and systems engineer by training who worked at Eastman Kodak for 12 years before coming to the SEI, said the new book also delves much more deeply into the Lockheed Martin case study than any previous materials, detailing the organization’s journey over a decade to join these two initiatives. Siviy describes Lockheed’s approach as “state of the art” that needs to become “state of the practice.”

Penn—who at Lockheed oversees policies and process-command media, process compliance via audits, and process-improvement activities—said an important part of Lockheed’s implementation was to take the time, up front, to integrate all the processes throughout the organization and to make the involvement of every employee a priority, up to and including the president.

“The key to our approach is the process architecture, and that has to be done with forethought,” Penn said. “The software and systems engineers didn’t have to worry about what industry standard was new or what the flavor of the month was, they just remembered that they had to be compliant to the organization process standard.”

The second organizational case study complements the Lockheed case study with a focus on the commercial sector: Motorola, the birthplace of Six Sigma. Prior to his joining the SEI’s SEMA initiative, Stoddard worked at Motorola University where he led the development of the first software design for Six Sigma curriculum and served as quality director for the Motorola 3G cell phone business. In the Motorola case study, Stoddard highlights mappings between the initiatives to support decisions about CMMI adoption and an integrated training approach.

CMMI and Six Sigma extends beyond just these two initiatives and offers a snapshot of current research and practices for multi-model improvement, an essential topic given the hundreds of process improvement initiatives available to organizations. The book describes an emerging reasoning framework that builds on the lessons learned from the pairing of CMMI and Six Sigma as well as work done by SEI staff member Pat Kirwan, from the Frankfurt, Germany, office, and other colleagues and partners, and begins to build bridges to research and practices developed by others in the community.

Process improvement professionals facing questions about the joint implementation of CMMI and Six Sigma will find practical information in this book, as will the managers and technical staff with whom they frequently interact.

Siviy is a Kodak-certified Six Sigma Black Belt. Penn is a Lockheed-certified Six Sigma Black Belt, and Stoddard is a Motorola-certified Six Sigma Black Belt.

Please note that current and future CMMI research, training, and information has been transitioned to the CMMI Institute, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Carnegie Mellon University.

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