Process vs. Product – 002

I received this from the higher up management today (September 2004):

Today, the TYBRIN SE/TA Organization became the first organization within TYBRIN and the first base organization to receive CMMI Capability Level Ratings ! TYBRIN SE/TA was assessed in four process areas that are key to our ability to effectively and efficiently manage tasks on the contract. The conducted appraisal was the most stringent, a “SCAMPI A” appraisal. The appraisal process began about a month ago with a readiness review and concluded this week with personnel interviews and documentation reviews of our implementation of CMMI practices in the following four process areas: 1). Project Planning; 2). Project Monitoring and Control; 3). Supplier Agreement Management; and 4) Process and Product Quality Assurance.


This is only the first step of our continuing process improvement program. This was a baby step that allowed us to step into the CMMI model and understand how to implement the model while keeping our focus on our customer and business goals. We now launch into a continuation program to improve our organizational maturity in not only these 4 key process areas, but to also expand to additional relevant process areas. In the coming year you will see us attack Requirements Management and Risk Management.

I truly appreciate everyone’s contribution to TYBRIN’s successes here at the AFFTC.

The author of this email is a good guy. I appreciate his efforts. He’s personally and professionally been kind to me. And he doesn’t often blow his own horn or blow smoke at others. I don’t know what he does most of the day, but I think I should be really proud of his accomplishment. But there is a lot I don’t understand about why this is an important accomplishment. It feels empty for the feet on the street, pointy end of the spear kind of guy. I suspect it’s important to Tybrin because it’s important to someone else, perhaps the government. Or perhaps, it’s a professional milestone — something like breaking a 4 minute mile to an athlete. Is this a process accolade? For me (Joe SE/TA engineer), the more valuable accolade would be about the product, not the process. That’s the world I control. That’s what my work is about. That’s what my professional milestones entail. I’d love to hear someone say, “I’ve never seen a better product!”

So much energy is put into having good meetings to plan activities, that nobody seems to care any more that the activities themselves are done at a quality level. CMMI. ISO 9002. These are all certifications of the processes. Does anybody look any more at what is coming out the factory door? Why is the process more important than the product?

Bottom line is that I think there’s more leverage to change a process. If you succeed at that, you affect many more people collectively, in mass. You get to avoid individually training, teaching, and motivating individuals with custom attention. It appears to be a much more efficient way of being good. My humble opinion: “It ain’t gonna work.” Powerpoint didn’t make better speakers. Word doesn’t make better writers. Nothing replaces people, invidually being good.

The sad observation is that as we look for powerful leverage, gaining business advantage, we get what we put energy toward. We get a company with great processes. Does anybody grade the product? No. Not really. And when the customer doesn’t value it, we’re motivated to not deliver it.

I need to keep my eye open for customer sets that value quality products. Not in BS speeches. But for real. And they express a willingness to sacrifice something else to get it.

About Brian

Engineer. Aviator. Educator. Scientist.
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