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Reflections on technology, business, and life


Process Improvement

Using JIRA to Scale your Business

I recently spoke at the 2017 Capability Counts conference, put on by the CMMI Institute. David Anderson Keynote 2017.PNG It’s an interesting event that isn’t focused just on CMMI maturity models — instead it’s a conference where a few hundred people get together to discuss process improvement, Agile, software engineering processes, and a variety of other related topics.

The keynote (shown in the picture above) is David Anderson of LeanKanban University talking about the core concepts of Kanban, which go far beyond most people’s understanding of 3 column boards.

I spoke on using Atlassian’s JIRA product to help an organize scale — sharing some best practices/recommendations on how to use a tool like JIRA to get information out of email, hallway conversations, and meetings and into a system where work can be clarified, prioritized and tracked.


How does a CTO Spend Time?

I’ve recently realized that I’ve been drawing a similar pie graph several times recently, explaining how I spend my time as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at a small business.  I thought I’d share for those interested in how I spend my time juggling the demands of CTO across various company priorities.


If you’re interested in learning more about small business CTO activities, including technology strategy when you’re too small to have a dedicated CTO, check out this free, upcoming training in Old Town Alexandria, sponsored by Capitol Post, that I’m teaching next month (Sept 2015):  Technology 101 for Entrepreneurs (How to Choose to the Best Systems for your Business).

Magnet Ball vs. Zone Defense: How Mature is your Organization?

There are a lot of ways you can measure and categorize organizational maturity.  I’m sureCMMI_maturity_levels there are several classes you can take on it if you get a MBA.  The CMMI Institute, as an example, talks about how organizations move from being managed, to defined, to starting to self-optimize.  These frameworks are all valuable, but I like to think of this concept as a simple spectrum between two extremes:

  • Magnet Ball – One extreme for an organization’s maturity is like watching small children play soccer.  Everyone, except maybe the goalie, surrounds the ball and you from away it looks like the soccer ball is a magnet pulling all the children toward it, into a swarm of chaos
  • Zone Defense – The other extreme is watching an organized group of people who know their role, they know where their role ends and someone else’s on the team starts, they know how to do their job well, and they know how to help their teammates when they need — this is like watching a great professional sports team work


Another great way to think about this is Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development (forming, storming, norming, and performing) is a great framework to understand how a group develops, and how you can help move a group through those phases.

Where does your organization (whether it’s a company, or a meetup group, or a church) fit on this spectrum?  How could you move it a little more to the right and out of the chaos?

CMMI Maturity Levels Explained

The CMMI process improvement model is focused on improving the overall processes involved with designing, creating, and supporting technology products and services.  While the overall framework can be confusing, I enjoyed Watts Humphrey’s explanation of the focus for each of the maturity levels in Looking Ahead:

  • Maturity Level 2 – Move an organization from crisis-driven to plan-driven by focusing on the fundamentals that can reduce/prevent crises (planning, configuration management, requirements management, subcontract management, quality assurance)
  • Maturity Level 3 – Create a learning organization by identifying what works best in an organization and standardizing it across the enterprise (e.g. process definition, training, decision making approaches)
  • Maturity Level 4 – Focus on quantitative management and quality control to ensure that processes are measured and improved using tangible measurements
  • Maturity Level 5 – Focus on continuous process improvement, taking best practices from within and outside of the organization and applying them to the organization

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