No Maturity Models, But Individual Competence

There are dozens of maturity models in the world of software development and in other business environments. But I find the concept of maturity models of little use, and perhaps even a bit offensive.

How would you rate the “maturity” of marketing agencies? Would you measure how well they are able to perform tasks like conversion of graphics files, ad placement negotiations, and search engine optimization? Or would you simply look at the success of their marketing campaigns, like this one? How would you rate the “maturity” of plumbers? Would you measure their ability to wield pipes, pumps, gauges, and valves? Or would you just consider whether they are leaving behind happy housemen and housewives? Like some other managers and writers I believe maturity models are too narrowly focused on processes.

While well intentioned, many of these models are mechanistic and […] invariably fail to recognize that the sole compelling reason for a firm to develop business process management practices at the enterprise level is to improve the performance of the organization in delivering value to customers and shareholders. Accordingly, many of these ‘Process Maturity’ models do not explicitly take into account the following two fundamental realities: 1) Organizations are both complex business and complex social systems; 2) Exemplary business process management performance demands that leaders work collaboratively and cross-functionally. – Andrew Spanyi "Beyond Process Maturity to Process Competence"

Organizations are living systems. Assigning one rank (a maturity level) to an entire organization is just as useless, and potentially offensive, as assigning one single rating to me, Jurgen Appelo, for everything that I am, produce, and stand for. It flies in the face of complex thinking. Therefore I don’t believe that maturity models are the proper way to address and assess professionalism in organizations.

If it is performance that really counts, then we need to go beyond maturity to look at how an organization develops business process competence. – Andrew Spanyi "Beyond Process Maturity to Process Competence"

I prefer talking about (individual) competence over (corporate) maturity. Let's try and make people competent, instead of attempting to make organizations mature.

(image: Sukanto Debnath)

This article will be part of the book Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders. You can follow its progress here.

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