Continuous Improvement in the CMMI, PMBOK, and ISO World

Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)

CMMI is a capability model developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) along with a group of government and industry representatives and is defined as a “non-prescriptive collections of best practices that infuse quality into products through the use of better processes throughout the entire product life cycle.” This model is made up of the “best-of-the-best” practices taken from multiple disciplines. As per Wikipedia, “CMMI is a process improvement approach whose goal is to help organizations improve their performance. CMMI can be used to guide process improvement across a project, a division, or an entire organization.”

CMMI recommends grouping of business practices into four categories. These categories are Process Management, Project Management, Engineering, and Support. As per a Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute technical note, the Process Management process areas provide the framework for institutionalization and consistent execution of processes across an organization. The Project Management process areas cover the project management activities related to planning, monitoring, and controlling projects.

The Engineering process areas cover development and maintenance activities that are shared across engineering disciplines and apply to the development of any product or service in the engineering development domain. Finally Support process areas cover the activities that support product development and maintenance.

An article titled “Relationships between CMMI and Six Sigma” published by CMU/SEI in 2006 explores in details the relationship between Six Sigma and CMMI. The article suggests that Six Sigma can be used to implement CMMI process areas by treating them as Six Sigma projects. The key is to identify problems within a process area and go about improving the process using data-based analysis and depending on whether the process already exists, however broken, or whether it is a green field process, DMAIC or DFSS methodology can be applied in conjunction with Lean as needed.

The article further states that Six Sigma can be used as a tactical tool for achieving high capability and maturity. This can be done by improving the defined processes that address the high maturity process areas and strive to drive those processes to achieve Six Sigma quality and thereby achieve high maturity.

Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK)

PMBOK stands for Project Management Book of Knowledge and Project Management Professionals (PMPs) are certified as experts in Project Management by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The PMBOK recognizes Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma as Quality Management Methodologies. The PMBOK recommended tools for performing quality control are pretty much the tools that are used by a Six Sigma or Lean practitioner as well (e.g. cause and effect diagrams, control charts, histogram, Pareto charts, statistical sampling etc.).

The Quality Management Methodologies mentioned in PMBOK include Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, and Quality Function Deployment, which is used extensively in design for Six Sigma projects. In fact the PMI recognizes Lean and Six Sigma training while calculating continuing education points necessary for maintaining the PMP certification. We have come across many Six Sigma Belts who are PMP certified as well and this really helps, particularly in managing large projects.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

We have come across multiple companies that are ISO certified (ISO 9001, ISO 14000 and ISO 20000 are the most common ones that we have seen). And being part of multiple internal and external audits we have had the opportunity to demonstrate Lean and Six Sigma approaches that were being used to drive continuous improvement in these companies. In all cases these methodologies (and the associated process to gather data, analyze data and document and measure improvements) were always cited by the auditors as best in class approaches that supplement the ISO requirements around continuous improvement.

The bottom line is that Six Sigma and Lean not only fits in perfectly with the most widely adopted process improvement standards but is actually recommended by most of them as the preferred approach for driving continuous improvements in companies following these standards or any other similar best practice model.


Topics: Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement