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As early as 1993, the brilliant inventor and entrepreneur, Thomas Edison, remarked that "Anything which won't sell, I don't want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success." These words remain true today and emphasize the need to structure business processes to deliver value. A time-proven framework that champions such organization is the Capability Maturity Model (CMM).

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Flevy Management Insights: Capability Maturity Model


As early as 1993, the brilliant inventor and entrepreneur, Thomas Edison, remarked that "Anything which won't sell, I don't want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success." These words remain true today and emphasize the need to structure business processes to deliver value. A time-proven framework that champions such organization is the Capability Maturity Model (CMM).

What is the Capability Maturity Model?

The Capability Maturity Model is a development model created by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), a research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The model was initially aimed at evaluating the ability of government contractors to perform a contracted software project, but it has now been generalized beyond just software development.

The CMM is instrumental in identifying the key practices required to increase the effectiveness of any specific process. As such, it aids organizations in improving the proficiency and skill of its processes, and thus its effectiveness in achieving its objectives. In essence, the model helps organizations improve upon their game, going from a disjointed, amateur approach to becoming a mature, capable, and process-oriented enterprise.

Levels of Maturity

The distinction is evident across the five levels of the Capability Maturity Model. Each level represents a different degree of organizational maturity and signifies an increasingly refined and improved process capability:

  1. Initial: At this level, processes are often ad hoc and chaotic. There is minimal, if any, established processes.
  2. Repeatable: Basic project management techniques are established, and successes can be repeated because the pertinent processes have been established, possibly gleaned from past successful projects.
  3. Defined: At this level, all processes are defined, documented, standardized, and integrated into one standard process. All projects use an approved, tailored version of the company's standard process.
  4. Managed: Here, both the product and process are quantitatively understood and controlled.
  5. Optimizing: At this highest maturity level, continuous process improvement is enabled by quantitative feedback, from the process and from piloting innovative ideas and technologies.

Importance of Implementing the Capability Maturity Model

The Capability Maturity Model's application helps organizations approach Strategic Management and Operational Excellence in an ordered and methodical approach. It creates an environment that nurtures stability, constancy of purpose, and diligent attention to improve current practices. Consequently, the use of CMM provides a steady foundation for cumulative, long-lasting improvements in an organization.

Business Risk Management also benefits significantly from using CMM. By thoroughly defining and documenting processes, companies can rapidly detect deviations, thereby allowing immediate corrective action. Moreover, the documentation fosters an environment of transparency and understanding, leading to a lower risk of project failure and the achievement of Project Management Excellence.

Implementing the Capability Maturity Model as part of an organization's Strategic Management Plans yields significant benefits. It translates to improved standards, critical for achieving Operational Excellence, Performance Management, and Project Management Excellence. Through this, CMM provides a path for businesses to move from a state of chaos and uncertainty to a realm of well-defined, repeatable, and improving processes, ultimately leading to a mature and capable organization.

For effective implementation, take a look at these Capability Maturity Model best practices:


Explore related management topics: Operational Excellence Maturity Model Performance Management Process Improvement Risk Management Project Management CMMI Business Capability Model Information Technology Enterprise Architecture




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