A Framework to Establish People-related Best Practices


In her Personality Matters series, Leslie Sachs examines the personalities and people issues that are found in technology groups from cross-functional, high-performance teams to dysfunctional matrix organizations.


Usually I write about the impact of personality in process improvement. This month’s topic of standards and frameworks suggested that I discuss the impact of the SEI’s People Capability Maturity Model on issues related to managing your most important resources—people. Unfortunately, many organizations have failed to realize that managing and developing the right team is far more important than just the products and services that generate revenues. If you forget about your human resources, then you probably won’t be in business for very long. That said, many otherwise successful technology professionals find it difficult to successfully manage human resources. This article describes an excellent framework developed by the SEI to help you establish effective people-related best practices.

CMM Anyone?

As noted in the model itself, a Capability Maturity Model is an evolutionary roadmap for implementing the vital practices from one or more domains of organizational process (Curtis, Hefley, Miller, p. 16). Maturity models help you to set priorities and decide which steps should be completed first. Many people find maturity models too verbose and even more difficult to implement on a practical basis. But it is also true that getting your arms around all of the people related best practices can be a very difficult challenge. This model helps to organize and approach this effort in a logical way.

Let’s take a look at what practices make sense to implement in your organization.


Many organizations have an ad-hoc approach to selecting new employees that results in considerable wasted time and energy. Even worse, it can result in failing to select good candidates or selecting the wrong candidates. Having a set of practices in place to select the right candidates is an essential practice in any successful organization. Staffing is considered to be the most important process at this initial level and managers play a key role in recruiting suitable candidates. There needs to be an appropriate selection process that is fair and complies with all relevant personnel laws. Equally important, but frequently overlooked, is the need to have a process to transition employees out of the organization when necessary. This is an area of great weakness for many otherwise successful organizations and the People Capability Maturity Model helps to establish guidelines to get you started in the right direction.

Communication and Coordination

Many organizations focus primarily on communication outside of the organization to insure that customers receive important information on a timely basis. Communication within an organization is also essential and needs to be managed. I have seen environments where the rumor mill seemed to be the only means of disseminating information. Such a situation is certainly not optimal.

Work Environment

Work Environment can include managing issues related to health and safety and equally important is the comfort of the members of your organization. An office environment that is too hot, cold or noisy creates a distraction and often results in employees just deciding not to bother working or just doing the minimum to get by. There have been studies related to lighting, noise and air quality that show that work environment, while not the only factor, is indeed an essential factor in developing an efficient and effective workforce.

Performance Management

Performance helps you to establish objectives and measure the work performed against those objectives. Your best performers can be recognized (as they should be) and obviously you can use performance measurement to help improve performance or, when necessary, decide that some employees just cannot successfully perform in a specific function.

Training and Development

Training and development helps to improve the skills of your team. Training may just be the most important process area as many other problems can be resolved with effective training.


Compensation helps you to effectively establish proper pay and benefits that match an individual’s contribution to the organization. Compensation needs to be perceived as fair and comply with all relevant laws and regulations.

Level 3 Process Areas

Since the People Capability Maturity Model is based upon 5 maturity levels, you would normally focus on establishing the Level 2 processes before moving on to the Level 3 processes. That said, it has become common to work on some Level 3 processes with Level 2 processes in the CMMI and it might be the same for the People CMM as well..

Competency Analysis

In Competency Analysis, we identify the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities required to perform a particular activity. This is often linked back to training – especially when qualified candidates are difficult to find. Competencies are also essential in evaluating and improving performance.

Workforce Planning

Workforce planning involves identifying the resources needed for its current and future business activities. Through workforce planning, organizations may decide whether or not it is better to acquire new staff or develop their own in-house talent..

Competency Development

In Competency Development the organization can use the information gained in the Competency Analysis and Workforce Planning to determine its best course of action to develop the competencies required to perform the organization’s activities.

Career Development

Career Development helps to enable individuals to achieve their personal career objectives. Such Organizational support usually results in a more committed and effective workforce.

Competency Based Practices

Competency Based Practices help to ensure that all workforce practices are based upon development of the competencies of the workforce.

Workgroup Development

Workgroup development is an organizing mechanism which helps to put the right focus on competency based process abilities. Workgroups most often have a leader responsible and may exist for a short period of time to perform specific tasks.

Participatory Culture
High performance workgroups most often involve establishing a culture whereby everyone feels that they should and can participate – especially with regard to making important decisions that may impact the success of the group.

How Can We Organize the Process Areas?

It can be very difficult to plan and organize the activities necessary to establish the practice areas described in the People Capability Maturity Model. To help make this a little easier each of the process areas may be understood in terms of four process threads.

Process Threads

There are four process threads that help us to understand the process areas that we have discussed. They are:

    1. Developing Individual capability


    1. Building workgroups and culture


    1. Motivating and managing performance


  1. Shaping the workforce

Training and development along with Competency analysis and development are associated with developing the capabilities of individuals. Communication and coordination along with workgroup development and participatory culture are associated with building workgroups and culture. Compensation, performance, work environment along with career development and competency based practices are associated with motivating and managing performance.  Finally, staffing and workforce planning are associated with Shaping the workforce.

For this article, I used the excellent book written by Bill Curtis, William Hefley and Sally Miller entitled The People Capability Maturity Model – Guidelines for Improvement the Workforce, Addison-Wesley ISBN 0-201-60445-0.

There are many processes described in the People Capability Maturity Model, and, obviously it can be very difficult to decide where to get started. Frameworks that use a maturity model do provide some inherent guidance in terms of which practices should be accomplished first and which ones can pushed off to a later time. Obviously you will still have to decide which practices are a priority for your organization, although with the guidance from the SEI you have some powerful tools and information to help you get started and establish a comprehensive process improvement roadmap. Implementing the best practices described in the People Capability Maturity Model will help your organization achieve excellence by improving their most important and valued resource!

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