Adoption of People CMM® -03: Why is it Low?

In a previous post titled Adoption of People CMM® – 01: Appraisal Results (Also see People CMM® Appraisals – 2012 Update), we looked at the reported appraisal data and realized that the number of reported appraisals in any given year hovers between five and ten. There may be a few appraisals that are not reported. Even factoring in the unreported appraisals, the number of appraisals is still low.

However, some people argue that number of appraisals is not equal to the number of organizations adopting the model. Many organizations claim to have adopted People CMM® (by Bill Curtis, Bill Hefley, and Sally Miller) without undergoing an appraisal (“we are not interested in certification”, is a common refrain).

Yes, there are a few of such organizations too. And some of them have seriously adopted the model.

But in many such cases, they just pick and choose what is convenient and comfortable and ignore the rest of the model saying “it does not make bussssinessss sense”. The whole exercise ends up with an internally produced document where some of the People CMM® requirements are mapped with the organization’s current practices. Other inconvenient People CMM® practices (that may have been useful) are marked with “not suitable in our context”. This makes the organizations smug (“in principle we are maturity level x”). The fun starts when someone says, “then let us go get our level x”. Then they call in external experts, and realize how far they are from the desired level.

Coming back to the reasons for the low adoption of People CMM®.

TargetThe most important reason is that there is no external pressure, unlike in the case of CMMI® or ISO. Customers normally do not ask vendors whether they are appraised to the People CMM®. Even if an organization does get itself appraised once, there is no pressure for re-appraisals.

The listing of People CMM® on PARS is a good move, as it creates peer pressure.

CommunicateThe lack of awareness of the model is another important reason. Not many people know about the model. The knowledge is restricted to a few folks (process engineers and quality professionals in IT companies) already familiar with the SEI and the CMM® models. Most CEOs and HR heads are totally unaware of it. There is almost no mention of People CMM® in journals like HBR, nor is it discussed in conferences related to Business Excellence or Human Capital Management.

ProgrammerMost people who are aware of the framework mentally tag it as a model for the IT/ SW industry. There is almost no practice in the model that aligns it to any specific industry. Organizations in the banking, hospitality, engineering, and manufacturing have found it as useful as IT companies. (However, the model document also has too many references to the software industry in the first few sections that contain information about the background and genesis of the model – this is likely to have reinforced the perception of its IT centricity. Maybe the authors can do something about it in the next version).

ChampionIn many companies, the current organizational structure does not enable any group in the company to easily take up the initiative – so it is nobody’s baby. It has been repeated multiple times that “it is not a HR model” – this message has unintended consequences – HR is reluctant to take it up as an initiative. But to cross maturity level 2, HR has to take an active part. Process engineering groups will usually not champion for People CMM® because (1) they have other headaches :-(, like CMMI®, ISO 20K, ISO 27K, etc., and (2) they don’t want to intrude into HR territory.

Based on the set of organizations that have implemented the model (known to the writer),  the People CMM® initiative has been taken either by the HR head or the CEO. And CEOs usually have many other things on their plate. We should stop emphasizing “it is not a HR model”.

ExhaustedMost organizations are now perpetually going from one certification (audit/ appraisal/ assessment) to another causing appraisal fatigue – each model has a 1-3 year re-appraisal/ surveillance cycle. Even the thought of picking up another long-term initiative seems to exhaust them. People CMM® is put on the backburner, “to be picked up when we have more time”.

SlowdownRepeated economic slowdowns in the last few years have made companies postpone their People CMM® initiative. Who wants a model to “attract and retain” people when organizations are trying to do “right-sizing” 😉 every two years?

Lack of adoption feeds on itself – the question often asked is “if People CMM® is so great, why haven’t more organizations adopted it? Even after so many years”?

JudgeMany companies fear that the appraisal results may provide fodder for litigation by disgruntled employees (this is true in countries prone to litigations). For example, a finding that, “there is no structured mechanism for handling employee grievances” can be used by litigating employees to strengthen their case against the organization.

{<Start of Digression>: The pre-SCAMPISM version of the People CMM® assessment method had a step for “review by legal” before presenting the final findings. An impasse with the legal team on the wordings of some finding could mean that the assessment was abandoned before the final findings. There is no such explicit requirement in the SCAMPISM method <End of Digression>}.

UncomfortableIn many organizations, HR is uncomfortable with the concepts of process engineering, data analytics and the possible transparency that People CMM® is likely to bring about. HR also lacks program management experience and skills to run long-term, organization-wide programs like People CMM®.

ProtectLarge consulting firms have a vested interest in their clients not implementing People CMM®. Consulting firms have their own proprietary methodologies and tools to implement competency definitions, salary restructuring, right sizing, role rationalization, and so on. They not only set up the framework, but also provide consultants (usually fresh MBAs) for execution. These are huge contracts, and cyclical in nature, locking the client organization perpetually. Implementing People CMM® actually frees up the clients from these huge contracts, as the organization realizes that it can do a better job of the setting up and changing the people related processes (using internal staff), than handing over the job to expensive consultants.

Reading to SleepThe model is not easy reading – it is heavy and legalistic. Most people trying to get an overview of People CMM® find the material sleep-inducing. Here is what one HR Head said “I kept the model next to my bedside a year ago. I try to read it every night, but I am usually fast asleep in less than a page.” While the model book is more like reference material (and hence it is precise, complete, and unambiguous – and rightly so), there isn’t any alternate light reading material available for busy executives (with a short span of attention :-)) to excite them.

Then there are other frivolous reasons stated, like “we desperately want to implement it, but can’t find the model/ book” (huh? – have they tried Googling? Or searching on any online bookstore like Amazon or Flipkart?). Anyways, the model as a pdf document is freely downloadable from the SEI site here.

The print/ paper version of the book is available at,, and Flipkart .

There has been an animated discussion on the topic in the LinkedIn group called “People CMM” (, for those who want to read other views.

So, where do we go from here?

The good news is that it is a great model. And the industry still needs a framework to address people management holistically. People CMM® is still the only comprehensive model available today, and there is no other competing framework.

SEI can lobby with the Government and DoD to adopt the model either for themselves or make it highly desirable (if not mandatory) for their vendors. The initial push helps. This is how many models/ frameworks became widely used, and SEI is best placed to lobby, as it is a DoD establishment.

We need to spread awareness using multiple forums, like conferences, journal, websites, and blogs where CEOs, HR folks and consultants hang out. We also need to do it across a wide range of industries to remove the “IT/SW” tag that the model carries. Talking about People CMM® in SEPG conferences, SPIN forums and LA meets is good, but is not going to take us far. Spreading awareness can be done by anyone who believes that the model is useful – SEI, partners, consultants, LAs and organizations who have benefitted from implementing the model.

We also need to tone down the message “it is not a HR model”. This message often makes the HR folks shy away from heartily taking up the model for implementation. No other organizational group has more at stake than HR, at least at maturity level 2. And without HR providing its wholehearted support, implementation of maturity level 2 process areas is almost impossible.

Finally, SEI can reduce the royalty and annual license fees for People CMM® related services, till the volumes start picking up. This will make the training and appraisal services cheaper to the end users, and make it a little bit easier to gain an entry.

Other related posts uploaded on the same blog:

Please do share your experiences, comments and feedback by posting a reply/ comment.

SM-SCAMPI is a service mark of Carnegie Mellon University.

I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

17 thoughts on “Adoption of People CMM® -03: Why is it Low?”

  1. Rajesh, I think we need to have an integrated model in a real sense where PAs of P-CMM are absorbed in CMMI models. People and Process issues can no longer be seperately dealt with. This is something which SEI needs to seriously work on.

    1. Hi Rajesh you are spot on!! two major set backs for PCMM not able to reach the entire gamut of organizations:
      1. Perceived as PCMM can be applied as model for S/W only. It is extremly strong feeling, many of the HR heads/ CEO’s are unwilling to discuss.
      2. Non availability of high quality facilitators on facilitating PCMM implementation.

  2. Very nice compilation on the reasons for low adoption rates of P-CMM. I think a quagmire of models around in the market has also contributed to the confusion on each of these model’s efficacy. For instance, Business Maturity Model, Organisational Maturity Model etc all focused on IT organisations are overlapping so much that the benefits are thinned all across. P-CMM has been in the market for long and I agree that since there is no client mandate driven business condition, its adoption is at a very low level.

  3. Hi Rajesh,

    Really absorbing reading. The entire article highlights facts supported by experience of attitudes.

    I think implementing any model and especially PCMM needs constant and unswerving motivation of all team members, be they from HR, from process group or at the top. (I agree that ownership becomes an issue here but it should not be so. HR should take the initiative and get support from process group and the top management; it is technically too HR for process group to handle along with CMMI and ISOs and too much of detail for the top management’s level of abstraction).
    I would like to share the Will, Emotion and Cognition theory of motivation (developed by yours sincerely) which also relates to motivation at different levels of the corporate hierarchy.

    “Will, Emotion and Cognition

    Will is necessary to start some undertaking. Emotion provides the passion to achieve that. Cognition keeps the balance between ambition, passion and reality. Without cognition, the Will and the Emotion can be misguided or misdirected.”
    Will is needed to be developed among the younger managers.
    Emotional intelligence is needed at middle management level.
    Cognition is needed at the top of the pyramid of the team.

    I think delving into more details of the theory will be a digression at this point.

      1. Thanks for your words Rajesh. I am in the process of compiling the concepts for the ‘Will, Emotion and Cognition theory. Will share once I am through completely.

  4. Rajesh,

    I find your observation “Large consulting firms have a vested interest in their clients not implementing People CMM” very interesting.

    I find this pattern in many companies…where HR consulting firms – both big and of the boutique variety, are engaged by organizations to address specific HR areas like competency dictionary, employee satisfaction surveys, psychometric assessments, and at times for writing HR processes.

    This work tends to become an “annuity” kind of business for the consulting firms. With due respect to such consulting firms, while they tend to implement solutions locally, HR heads eventually raise concerns like “we are stuck” and “there are overall integration issues and we are not able to reap long term benefits from such recurring investments”. Some of these solutions do address immediate and short term needs. But because they are not embedded into a larger systemic framework of HR, they tend to work in silos and acquire a life of their own; and over time, become “vehicles set in motion that cannot be controlled”, even if the organization sees diminishing returns.

    At the risk of sounding like an “evangelist” for PCMM, I believe that PCMM provides that overall architecture (and binding glue) for a HR framework that can integrate and align various pieces to business needs.

    At times however, this can threaten the “localized” approaches taken by consulting firms.

    I have seen organizations (while on the PCMM journey), start to question the relevance of such local initiatives, as they increasingly view these through the prism of the overall HR architecture.

    And that is when some consulting firms tend to down-play (and some times bad mouth) the use of PCMM. I have also come across published articles where some consulting firms try to spread an impression that PCMM is very IT-Industry specific, very certification oriented and does not provide value.

    Since the model is a bit difficult to read and comprehend (requires “systems thinking” mindset to understand the essence), such “hear say” tends to gain credence.

    The greatest advocates for the utility of PCMM are those HR and Business Heads who have experienced a few cycles of PCMM based system implementation. In my view, implementation of PCMM provides a great opportunity for HR to do some serious spring cleaning of their legacy systems, tie up loose ends, and build solutions to “long held pain points (but not knowing how to overcome them)” type of issues.

  5. Thanks Rajesh. This is wonderfully insightful.
    Just a couple of thoughts that I had while I was reading. I would tend to agree that we need to tone down the “it is not a HR model” refrain, in my experience I have also seen the other way round .. i.e. it remains a “HR only” initiative .. As you rightly pointed out it is a wonderful model and while HR need to take the lead and ownership, holistic implementation cannot take place without active participation from other groups as well.

  6. Thanks Rajesh. What a wonderful and honest ‘no holds barred’ write up. I was smiling to myself as I read this since a lot of what you had articulated resonated with me as I am sure it would have with many others. A very cohesive and comprehensive analysis. It was a treat. =)

  7. Excellent blog post on challenges in respect of poor adoption of PCMM in organizations. It is very often the case that PCMM initiatives are started in many instances but loose steam on the way leading to hold-ups and delays and complete halt at times.

    As this model pertains to people practices it requires certain cultural changes that may lead to structural adjustments which are difficult to bring about. There are some related aspects that are worth emphasizing as they serve as headwinds for PCMM adoption. Examples include:
    – Existing power boundaries in the organization needing to be re-drawn (organization structure changes that create the least friction is always tough)
    – Difficult conversations with high degree of fairness, transparency and candor being required (managers in many organizations are not trained and truly interested in holding such conversations effectively)
    – Fairness and transparency in the actions and behaviors of the managers being needed (this happens only in genuinely open and progressive organizations. Interestingly, if an organization is already so, it won’t need PCMM).
    – Understanding of improvements that will happen with PCMM coming in being understood clearly by managers and employees (it is important that PCMM is viewed as a model that will make the organization fair rather than soft.)


  8. It seems to me that the bottom line is ‘business advantage’.

    CMMI, SW-CMM, ISOxxx, ITIL, etc are often adopted in order to remain competitive in a market where such qualifications are entry standards for contract negotiations. People CMM, for all the positive gains it brings, has not been granted that status. That alone removes it from the list of ‘business critical’ factors for success – “we can win contracts without it”.

    Winning business is often a company’s greatest goal – and sadly, if truth be said, for many, its only goal. After that comes the challenge to meet expected profit margins, especially if your company needs to satisfy hungry shareholders. “Will People CMM reduce my costs, especially in Year One of adoption?” Too late. A forward-thinking company will adopt People CMM with enough time to produce an even better bid for contract, not as an afterthought to reduce costs.

    Needless to say, People CMM CAN help a company whether as part of serious workforce preparations, or in remedial action to deliver better returns for an ineffectual workforce. Different approaches are required, one needing more patience and sensitivity than the other, to ensure BAU is not ill-effected.

    So, in summary, why does a company not adopt the People CMM as it ought?
    – Not Business Critical (“we can win contracts without it”);
    – No perceived Business Advantage till too late (“Why are we running at a loss?? Fix Delivery!”);
    – Implementation “on the run” doesn’t have sufficient ROI to justify risk or benefit.

    And two more points, just for fun:
    – How many people in senior positions would have the time, awareness, motivation AND intellectual inclination to see the benefits and power the People CMM can have in their organisation? I’ll put my neck out and say “not many”;
    – Other models, like those mentioned above, can be implemented project by project. People CMM is organisational from level 2 onwards, and as a result, an implementation team needs to use a bigger brain to figure out the best implementation path than a regular model. And how many businesses will commit best resources of that type to a long-term People CMM project? Do I have to put my neck out again?

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