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What is a Capability Maturity Model?

A Capability Maturity Model (CMM) provides a framework for a collection of practices, the bulk of which cannot reasonably be implemented or instituted in one step. That difficulty could be based in the sheer scale of what is being attempted, and can also include dependencies among some of the actions or steps so that interim milestones are required. One of the earliest CMM models was Philip Crosby’s Quality Management Maturity Grid (QMMG) in his 1979 best-seller, Quality is Free (McGraw-Hill). This Active Learning in Digital Realms CMM (like Crosby’s and virtually every CMM that has followed Crosby) has 5 stages of maturity:

  1. Do
  2. Ramp Up
  3. Apply
  4. Flip
  5. Transform

 

Capability Maturity Models are intended to be descriptive, not prescriptive. This isn’t about saying what steps are required, and in what order. Rather, these models emerge from the community of practice in which they are relevant.  The descriptions below are what they are because that has been the experience of many organizations that have been through it. Each journey is different, and there’s no absolute path through the model being presented. But members of the community largely agree that these stages and their descriptive characteristics tend to happen in roughly this order a lot of the time. Likewise, experience shows that trying to jump too many CMM levels in one leap often present challenges and problems. The CMM is an organizing tool for planning the journey, but individual side-tripe and excursions can be expected in many organizations as well.

 

This capability maturity model is intended to be used and applied at a variety of levels:

  • Individual Faculty

  • Individual Course

  • Program of Study

  • Academic Department

  • College or Institution

 

Regardless of the level of focus applied with this model, it shouldn’t be expected that any review of materials and behaviors would result in a conclusion at just one of the five stages of the model. Most assessments will find materials and behaviors that characterize multiple stages of this model. That’s to be expected. Typically, one of the levels will dominate the characterization of what you are assessing, particularly for narrow assessments conducted by individual faculty or on individual courses. The larger the scope of review, the more varied the results that can be expected. Your focus shouldn’t be on what level(s) you are currently at. Rather, it should be on how to move up to higher stages of maturity.