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Maturity Model for Continuous Performance Improvement

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Martin Fowler, author and consultant at Thoughtworks described Maturity Model in his recent blog as a tool that helps people in assessing the current effectiveness of a person or group and supports figuring out what capabilities they need to acquire next in order to improve their performance.

First step in maturity model is doing assessment. After assessment figure out the current level and then plan the capabilities to learn to achieve next level. A maturity model may have only a single dimension, or may have multiple dimensions. Martin said:

The true outcome of a maturity model assessment isn't what level you are but the list of things you need to work on to improve. Your current level is merely a piece of intermediate work in order to determine that list of skills to acquire next.

For learning perspective, if anyone uses maturity model, can easily take the investment decisions as well. Martin gave example as:

A maturity model can contain generalized estimates of progress, such as "to get from level 4 to 5 usually takes around 6 months and a 25% productivity reduction".

Martin mentioned that in many circles maturity models have gained bad reputations but it could be useful if someone uses it effectively.

Martin stated Capability Maturity Model (CMM) as the best-known maturity model in the software world. However it is disdained in the community. He mentioned two main root causes for the same:

  • Document heavy and plan driven, which is not suitable for agile software community.
  • Organizations competitive behavior of getting CMM certification also ruins the main purpose of having maturity model.

Jason Yip, principal consultant at Thoughtworks shared his views on the problem with maturity models as:

One of my main annoyances with most maturity models is not so much that they're simplified and linear, but more that they're suggesting a poor learning order, usually reflecting what's easier to what's harder rather than you should typically learn following this path, which may start with some difficult things.

In other words, the maturity model conflates level of effectiveness with learning path.

Martin said that whenever anyone uses any kind of model to understand a situation and draw inferences, one needs to first ensure that the model is a good fit to the circumstances. If the model doesn't fit, that doesn't mean it's a bad model, but it does mean it's inappropriate for this situation.

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