Performance Maturity Model

Gary DePaul offers a model for defining five stages of organizational performance. As you can see, if we start at the bottom, whatever we’re doing is ad hoc, or created as more or less a one-off effort. As we move up the model, we add more processes, definition, support, measurement, and continuous improvement.

I remember a Fortune 500 company where almost everything was done as a one-off (even if it wasn’t). For some reason that defies explanation, they were proud of—and the executives touted the value of—not having defined processes. People had to use their generative energy to figure out how to do everything from ordering office supplies to conducting more job-specific, repeatable (you’d think) processes. This left less time and energy for actually doing their work.

The thing is, they had processes—but they were mostly made up by multiple people over and over again—with varying inefficient and often ineffective results. (Yikes.)

It wasn’t all that surprising to some of us when they went out of business (Fortune 500 to Fortune Zero in not that many years). Hard work, long hours, and hyper-creativity will only take a company so far. Eventually, it makes sense to have processes that you can count on, and people who work to refine them so that people are able to do their best work.

Gary’s model is based on the Capability Maturity Model published by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. They provide some great explanations for each level (couched in a software development context).

If you’re working on implementing a new process or improving an existing one, take a look at these stages, descriptions, and characteristics. See if they’ll be useful for you.

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