Using a maturity model for large problems

I really only started learning about maturity models about five or six years ago. I had heard of them, but didn’t know what one was. Over the last couple of years I have applied and seen the positive effect of a maturity model on a major problem.

What is a maturity model? I’m glad you asked. Basically a maturity model provides a measurable framework to systematically and deliberately improve the thing you are looking at.

Probably the most popular maturity model is CMMI, which was built off the original maturity model call CMM. It is used to measure the maturity of information management domains. CMM was created to evaluate IT contractors for the Air Force. Today there are maturity models for many things

Two years ago, when I was just starting to work in document management with USAA, I learned about the GARP assessment, which is a records management maturity model. The name changed recently, so look it up under ARMA it interested. Also, a past consultant called DOCULABS provided their assessment of our document creation activity with a nine vector model. As I researched more, I saw several document-related models, mostly focused on stovepiped parts of the document life cycle or strictly on the electronic content management domain.

So, without anything to leverage, we built our own holistic document management majority model, which we call the DM3.

The point of this blog though is to focus on the important tool.

How a maturity model works. Basically, it’s a pretty simple table. Across the top you define a set of levels for measuring the maturity. I have seen three and five-level models. The DM3 is a five level model. The first level is the very basic level of maturity, like the item doesn’t exist and the highest level of maturity is the best it could be. Our levels range from AdHoc to Best in Class.

Then, along the left edge of the table is a list of major functions or capabilities. We used very holistic things like Strategy and Organization with a short definition of what they mean. Our model has six functions, but some have more and maybe you’re only looking at the maturity of one thing.

At each level, you define what the function or activity would look like. Thus you can easily determine what the best and worst would look like for your model. In our AdHoc level for Strategy, we’re basically saying that what strategies exist are developed in an AdHoc fashion at best and nothing is linked–basically everyone is following their own strategy Nd thus there really is no strategy. Best in Class would mean there is one single definitive and well developed strategy with a fully funded and detailed roadmap. When you are dealing with a big issue like document management for a Fortune 200 company, this is pretty important.

The beauty of the model is that you now have a stake in the ground to measure where you are today and clear expectations of where you need to go. This is especially helpful if you are dealing with a really big issue. We have found the DM3 to be a great tool to measure, plan, and communicate. Our hope is to share this device for broad use and then it also becomes a benchmark against all companies dealing with document management.

For you there might be a model already developed that you can quickly adopt. If not, they are really quite easy to design and use. Perfecting one can; however, take some time.

Good luck and I hope this information is helpful. Let me know if you use a maturity model of any type in your dealings?


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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