15 Fundamentals for Higher Performance in Software Development
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15 Fundamentals for Higher Performance in Software Development

Includes discussions on CMMI, Lean Six Sigma, Agile and SEMAT's Essence Framework

About the Book

This book discusses many popular improvement approaches including the CMMI, Lean Six Sigma, and Agile Retrospectives; it highlights fifteen (15) fundamentals common to all successful improvement efforts where sustainable high value performance improvements are achieved; and it shares a vision (and an actual example that holds promise) of a simple “thinking framework” that can help counter the patterns that may be holding you and your organization back from the sustainable high performance you seek. 

Paul also shares real examples from his consulting experiences, a personal performance improvement experience, and stories from high performing athletes and musicians to help you think about performance improvement outside-the-box.

Praise for 15 Fundamentals...

“…this book is  about far more than CMMI…I believe that it's critical that we listen to, think about, and then act on the criticisms that Paul shares with us….  Should you read this book?  If you are interested in software process improvement, if you are responsible for an agile transformation effort, or if you are an IT professional who wants to get better at what they do, then I also think the answer is a resounding yes.  In short, Paul has written another great one.”

Scott Ambler, Co-Author of Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Practitioner's Guide to Agile Software Delivery in the Enterprise

"Paul has a refreshingly different approach to process improvement. It is based on sound theory, personal observations over a long career, and his participation in the groundbreaking SEMAT project. This book is a perfect counterpoint to the traditional improvement methods so often applied with CMMI, Six Sigma, and other improvement approaches. Read it and then wonder how you ever survived those other approaches."

Dr. Richard Turner, Co-Author of CMMI Survival Guide: Just Enough Process Improvement

"Many efforts have been made to capture the enormous breadth and depth of knowledge and practices necessary to improve organizational performance. Until now, these efforts have either woefully lacked for substance or completeness. More likely, other efforts simply gave up on the fantasy of being complete and settled for a focus on a tiny subset of what's needed to be said. Through masterful architecting of ideas, Paul's  15 Fundamentals for Higher Performance in Software Development offers a readily digestible framework to provide both substance and completeness to a very large, complex and important subjects."

Hillel Glazer, Author, High Performance Operations, CMMI High Maturity Lead Appraiser

 "Paul has done a great job looking at a wide spectrum of prevalent software methods, without a bias for or against any, and come up with a few practical tips for a sustained performance improvement. If you are short of time or don't know where to start the book, jump to the 15 fundamentals. They are worth their weight in gold."

Prabhakar R. Karve, Director of Engineering, Impetus

 "I very much like the 'out of the box' approach.  The book exemplifies high  maturity thinking in a simple way." 

Winifred Menezes, CMMI High Maturity Lead Appraiser

  "I am one of those people that Paul refers to in the introduction to this book who are turned off and have tuned out when it comes to the multitude of process and performance improvement approaches along with their related hype and buzzwords.  So the first thing that hit me when Paul asked me to review this book was 'oh no! not another buzzword and tool!'  But in going through it, it really hung together. This actually struck home with me because this Essence framework introduces a lot more context with regard to problem solving. And again this upset me because I wanted to scream at someone for  introducing another tool and I couldn't." 

John Troy, Program Manager Rockwell-Collins

"This book gave me insight into other ways to improve and lay the foundation for CMMI Level 4 and 5; a foundation to last and expand."

Dr. Michael Oakes, Process Improvement Lead, Alion Science and Technology, A CMMI Development and Services Level 3 Organization

 "Congratulations on producing a really valuable piece of work. Clearly the product of many years' worth of serious application. The book reveals the essence of improving software development performance by teaching us to take ownership for improvement and focusing on patterns to address repeating, specific, weaknesses." 

Barry Myburgh, Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering(JCSE),School of Electrical and Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

"We have spent about 100 years applying scientific management. Until now we just do our job without knowing why we are doing it. We know what we are doing when we pay attention but not when we don't pay attention and it is in those times that our efforts come undone. This is the thrust of a lot of this book."

Dr. Tom McBride, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

"The material addresses how to apply principles and practices to control the Complex Adaptive System that we call our organization. SEMAT provides structure to control development and sufficient freedom to leverage the creativity from within the organization, to meet your objectives.  If individuals take the time to "think" about how to improve and their team understands "why" they are performing an activity; the leader and the team should be able to adopt and extend the SEMAT framework to address their desired 'productivity' performance goals."

Bob Epps, Lockheed Martin Corporate Engineering and Technology

"If you are a software practitioner and serious golfer (or athlete), and are looking for advice on how to continuously improve your professional and personal performances, this book is for you. It encompasses 40 years of Paul's experience on how to practice to get to the next level of excellence, both at work and on the green."

 Dr. Cecile Peraire, Carnegie Mellon University, Silicon Valley Campus



About the Author

Paul E. McMahon
Paul E. McMahon

Paul E. McMahon (pemcmahon@acm.org), Principal, PEM Systems (www.pemsystems.com) has been an independent consultant since 1997 helping organizations increase agility and process maturity. He has taught software engineering at Binghamton University, conducted workshops on engineering processes and management and has published more than 45 articles and multiple books including "Integrating CMMI and Agile Development: Case Studies and Proven Techniques for Faster Performance Improvement."  Paul is a co-author of "The Essence of Software Engineering: Applying the SEMAT Kernel." Paul is a Certified Scrum Master and a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. His insights reflect 24 years of experience working for companies such as Link Simulation and Lockheed Martin, and 17 years of consulting/coaching experience. Paul has been a leader in the SEMAT initiative since its initial meeting in Zurich in 2010.  

About the Contributors

Scott Ambler
Scott Ambler

Senior Consulting Partner, Scott Ambler+Associates

Co-Author of Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Practitioner’s Guide to Agile Software Delivery in the Enterprise ScottAmbler.com

Table of Contents

    • Praise for 15 Fundamentals…
    • Dedication
    • Foreword by Scott Ambler
    • Acknowledgements
    • Introduction
      • The Problem And What This Book Is About
      • My First Goal in this Book
      • About the Proposed Solution
      • How Performance (Process) Improvement Works Today
      • A Second Goal in Writing This Book and Why You Should Care
      • The Approach in this Book
      • A Third Goal of this Book
      • Summarizing the 15 Fundamentals and Thinking Framework Needs
      • Neuroscience, Human Decision-Making and the Stories in this Book
      • This Book is for You if…
      • About the Terms Process and Practice in This Book
  • Part 1 – The Problem & The Start of a Solution
    • Chapter One – The Sustainable Performance Dilemma
      • What Is Practice?
      • Looking Back At Yesterday And At Business Today
      • You Can’t Sustain Performance Staying Where You Are
      • Patterns During Difficult Times
      • The View of Practice in Many Organizations Today
      • Sustainment Training
      • Chapter One Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Two – Repeating Specific Weaknesses/ Why You Should Care
      • Background for Personal Improvement Project
      • Business Approach to Performance Improvement
      • Comparing Repeating Specific Weaknesses to Normal Process Variation
      • More About the Personal Improvement Project
      • A Business Example of a Repeating Specific Weakness
      • Repeating Specific Weaknesses: Critical to Sustainable Performance
      • Fundamentals First, But Why They Aren’t Enough
      • Keeping People Motivated Throughout Their Careers
      • Chapter Two Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Three – Common Measurement Mistakes
      • Common Organizational Measurement Mistakes
      • Start With Your Current “As-is” Process
      • Where to Look for Your Most Valuable Repeating Specific Weaknesses
      • A Case Study of a Common Measurement Mistake
      • A Flaw Observed With Today’s Common Analysis Approach
      • Where to Look for Candidate Areas to Measure
      • Chapter Three Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Four – Little Things That Aren’t So Little
      • Attaining High Value Improvements
      • Collect, Analyze, Act: Fundamental to Successful Improvement
      • Typical Business Stumbling Blocks
      • Business Case Study Demonstrating Sustained Performance
      • What’s Happening Today in CMMI Level 5 Organizations?
      • Problem Isn’t That We Aren’t Trying
      • Gaining High Value Performance Benefits from Small Changes
      • A Small Change Requiring Practice To Master
      • Helping Practitioners With Small Changes
      • Another Reason to Focus on Mastering Small Changes
      • Personal Improvement Project Repeating Specific Weaknesses
      • Chapter Four Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Five – First Level Checkpoints: Necessary, But Not Sufficient
      • How I Countered My Repeating Specific Weaknesses
      • Definition and Characteristics of First Level Checkpoints
      • Performance Objectives, Measures and First Level Checkpoints
      • How First Level Checkpoints Work
      • Why First Level Checkpoints Aren’t Enough
      • First Level Checkpoints in the Business World: Quality Assurance
      • An Example of Improving Your Quality Assurance Checklists
      • Common Mistakes with First Level Checkpoints
      • Examples of 1st Level Checks/ Where Business Needs More Help
      • Chapter Five Summary Key Points
  • PART II Beyond Fundamentals
    • Chapter Six: The Path to Higher Performance
      • Starting to Discover Better Performance Checklists
      • The Wrong Way to Conduct Root Cause Analysis
      • Challenges Related to Effective Root Cause Analysis
      • Discovering Second Level “Feel” Checkpoints
      • Motivating the Need for a Different Kind of Practice
      • Example of Second Level Checkpoint In Business: Big Picture Feel
      • Chapter Six Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Seven: The Essentials of Second Level Checkpoints
      • Simplifying Complexity Through Patterns
      • How Senior Management Can Help Practitioners Make Better Decisions
      • How Second Level Checkpoints Differ from First Level Checkpoints
      • 2nd Level Example: Requirements Incomplete or Ambiguous
      • Summarizing the Essentials of Second Level Checkpoints
      • Making Second Level Checkpoints Easier Through Patterns
      • Chapter Seven Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Eight: Feeling Your Way to Higher Performance
      • You Have to Get to Prevention for Higher Performance
      • Sensing the Wrong “Can Do” Vision for High Value Payback
      • An Example of “Feel” Leading To Better Decisions
      • Feel Versus First Level Checkpoints
      • Practice to Help Keep Your Eye on Your Goal
      • Chapter Eight Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Nine—Better Decisions Through Better Practice With Patterns
      • What Is Integrated Practice?
      • What Is a Pattern?
      • The Good And The Bad Side of Patterns
      • Creating the Right Patterns: Software Developer Examples
      • Recalling the Procurement Case
      • Spreading Positive Performance Across Your Organization
      • Utilizing the “Listen-for” Technique For Positive Outcomes
      • Example Using Patterns to Aid Personal Improvement
      • Example Using Patterns To Improve Business Performance
      • What Does Practice Have To Do With Performance?
      • Chapter Nine Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Ten—Right Patterns Through Practical High Maturity
      • Motivation for the Techniques Discussed in this Chapter
      • In Search of the Real Root Cause on the Personal Improvement Project
      • The Organizational Performance Impact of Inaccurate Data
      • Business Example: Impact of Taking Action with Inaccurate Data
      • The Power of Small Changes
      • Reinforcing An Important Insight About Small Changes
      • Example of Small Change To Counter the Dictated Schedule Scenario
      • Helping Your People Make Effective and Timely Small Changes
      • Revisit the Common Measurement Mistake from Chapter Three
      • The Problem and How Lean Six Sigma Can Help
      • Putting the Pieces Together With a Structured Real Story
      • Implementing CMMI High Maturity Practices in a Practical Way
      • Requirements Engineer’s Story Voice Track
      • Key Characteristics of Structured Real Stories
      • Increasing Involvement with Process Performance Baselines and Models
      • Business Example Motivating the Structured Real Story Technique
      • Chapter Ten Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Eleven– Practical High Maturity and Agile Retrospectives
      • Statistical Process Control (SPC) Simplified
      • 1st Example of SPC: The Frustrated Process Engineer
      • 2nd Example of SPC: Empowering Your Scrum Team
      • How an Unstable Process Could Help Your Team’s Performance
      • Chapter Eleven Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Twelve– The Real Root Cause and Solution
      • The Real Root Cause on the Personal Improvement Project
      • The Solution
      • Insight Into Repeating Specific Weaknesses
      • Ask Why 5 Times to Guide Your Search for Root Causes
      • How Allowing Variation Can Reduce Variation Where it Counts
      • The Right Kind of Practice
      • Chapter Twelve Summary Key Points
  • PART III A Thinking Framework
    • Chapter Thirteen: An Example–The Essence Thinking Framework
      • Review of Problem we all Face
      • Why Are We Falling Short When Millions Are Spent Annually?
      • What’s Really Wrong with How we Implement Performance Improvement?
      • Understand the Problem, Carefully Approach the Solution
      • Locating the Right Solution
      • Handling the More Difficult 2nd Type Situations
      • The Essence Approach
      • The Essence Framework
      • The Seven Alphas Inside the Essence Framework
      • Essence Checklists Helping With Real Practitioner Pain Points
      • How Esssence Checklists Differ From Traditional Checklists
      • Examples How Essence Checklists Go Beyond Existence Checklists
      • Example 1: Checklist item Requirements Alpha Coherent State
      • Example 2: Checklist item Stakeholders Alpha In Agreement State
      • Example 3: Checklist item Team Alpha Formed State
      • Example 4: Checklist item SW System Alpha Architecture Selected State
      • Not Checklists an External Auditor Can Easily Apply
      • An Example of Using Essence as a Thinking Framework
      • Examples Essence Helping Detect Practitioner Practice Pain Points
      • Helping Us Understand Practitioner Frustration
      • Example Essence Powering CMMI, Lean Six Sigma, Agile Retrospectives
      • Example of a Team Using Essence Independent of Practices
      • How Essence Relates to Two Types of Pain Points
      • Chapter Thirteen Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Fourteen: Better Decisions, Better Practice, and Essence Patterns
      • What is an Essence Pattern?
      • Pattern 1: The Dictated Schedule
      • Scenario Assessment and Consequence of Decision
      • A Decision that Could Have Improved the Team’s Performance
      • Scenario Summary
      • Pattern 2: A Little Coaching at Just the Right Time
      • Essence Thinking Framework Helping With Gentle Reminders
      • Apply the Right Practice at the Right Time With the Thinking Framework
      • Pattern 3: Keeping an Opportunity Alive and Healthy
      • Four Key Points from the Zack Example
      • Summarizing the Idea of Essence Patterns
      • Chapter Fourteen Summary Key Points
    • Chapter Fifteen: Conclusion
    • Epilogue
    • Appendix A – Building a Library of Patterns
    • Appendix B – Performance Models Aiding Practitioner Daily Decisions
    • Appendix C – Simple Example of Second Level Checkpoint
    • Appendix D – Comparing Performance Improvement Frameworks
    • Appendix E – More Evidence Supporting Need for Integrated Practice
    • Appendix F – Cross-Reference CMMI Specific Topics in Book
    • Appendix G – Cross-Reference Lean Six Sigma Specific Topics in Book
    • Appendix H – Cross-Reference Agile Specific Topics in Book
    • Appendix I – Cross-Reference Practitioner Scenarios
    • Appendix J – Intentionally left blank
    • Appendix K – About the Term Pattern in this Book and An Analogy
    • Appendix L – Why Risk Is Not an Essence Thinking Framework Alpha
    • Appendix M – Questions About the Essence Framework
    • Appendix N – A Caution When Using the Essence Framework
    • Appendix O – Intentionally left blank
    • Appendix P – 6 Additional Essence Patterns
      • Pattern 4: Reasoning Through a Requirements Dilemma
      • Pattern 5: Reasoning Through a Lack of Data Challenge
      • Pattern 6: Taking Responsibility for a Key Requirement
      • Pattern 7: Using Data to Aid Practical Improvement
      • Pattern 8: The Late Hardware Dilemma
      • Pattern 9: Assisting Self-Direction
    • Appendix Q – Practical High Maturity and Essence
    • Appendix R – Helping Your Team Achieve Higher Competency Faster
    • Appendix S – Cross Reference Critical Competency Needs, Case Studies
    • Appendix T – Which Organizations Should Care About Essence
    • References
    • About the Author

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