Maturity frameworks for enterprise agility in the 21st century
Jimmie McEver, Evidence Based Research, Inc.
Richard E. Hayes, Evidence Based Research, Inc.
Both commercial and military institutions are currently dealing with two key challenges that are driving the evolution of management and decision making in the 21st century. The first is the extreme uncertainty and complexity of 21st century environments as we move from the industrial age to the information age; the second is the ongoing transformation of 21st century institutions and actors in organizations of all types. These fundamental realities put the emphasis on acquiring, managing, sharing, and exploiting information, and supporting individual and collective decision making. In particular, more mature organizations have the ability to recognize situational change, and to adopt the correct management approach required to meet that change (agility). Two standards provide ways of assessing and developing these capabilities: (1) Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®) and (2) NATO Network Enabled Capability Command and Control Maturity Model (N2C2M2). The OPM3® global standard was first published in 2003 by the Project Management Institute (PMI), and it describes the system for executing strategies through projects and shows how to make such a system capable. That same year, Power to the Edge (Albert & Hayes, 2003) was published, describing the ability of an organization to dynamically synchronize its actions and achieve agility. This landmark publication advanced a series of works culminating in the N2C2M2. Both the OPM3® and N2C2M2 address essential dimensions of organizational development required to survive and thrive in the complex, volatile, and uncertain environment of today and tomorrow.
The 21st century is dominated by globalization, almost ubiquitous connectivity, exponential increases in access to data, information and knowledge, speed, and a rich and evolving mix of partners and competitors. The Kuhnian result is an environment characterized by complexity, inherent and sometimes massive uncertainty, dynamic and high risk (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1997; Christensen, 1997; D‘Aveni, 1994; Goldman, Nagel, & Preiss, 1995). This combination of factors requires that organizations continually be able to transform and adjust to remain highly effective in extremely fluid environments (Sambamurthy, Bharadwaj, & Grover, 2003; Bennet & Bennet, 2004; Bray & Prietula, 2007). Agility is not just another requirement—it is a necessity for survival (Alberts, 2010).
In an everyday language sense, agility as a concept is well understood—the physical agility of a dancer or athlete can easily be recognized and appreciated. However, when the agility of organizations and enterprises is considered, there is a need to go beyond physical agility; rather, what is sought is, more broadly, a capability to change across the physical, information, cognitive, and social domains, and to achieve success in the face of deep uncertainty and highly dynamic conditions (McEver, Hayes, & Martin, 2008, pp. 1–2). In this context, we might define agility as follows: The ability to maintain effectiveness proactively in the face of changing circumstances and stresses, including the ability to conceptualize, design, create, and deploy a successful endeavor (Hayes, 2010, p. 4.).
This language, adopted from ongoing work in the international military command and control community, represents how one group of NATO C2 thought leaders, NATO Study Panel SAS-085, is considering the challenges posed by 21st century environments (Hayes, 2007). (SAS-085 was established in early 2010 to explore concepts associated with command and control agility, particularly how it can be measured and how it can be enabled.) Past work in this community has suggested that agility can be thought of in terms of six key elements: robustness, resilience, responsiveness, innovation, flexibility, and adaptation (Alberts & Hayes, 2003). Agile individuals (or organizations, enterprises, or endeavors) can be thought of as those possessing a synergistic combination of these six attributes. While these definitions have emerged from national security contexts, the ideas they represent are entirely generalized to any type of activity in which the ability to deal with uncertainty or respond to change is important. Indeed, the primary motivation for this paper emerged from a realization that the two frameworks described herein, although emerging independently from entirely different communities, are attempting to help organizational leaders deal with the same classes of problems and are complementary in many ways.
The Quest for Agility
Organizations of all kinds throughout the world have had to learn to improvise, adapt, and overcome rapid increases in complexity, volatility, and uncertainty at an accelerating pace. In order to cope with change, organizations must be able to adapt and deliver change capably by transforming both structurally and operationally, reorganizing heterogeneous resources (people) as needed into teams assembled to do new or unique things (projects) (Schlichter, in press). As the external environment has become more complex, both organizations and their projects have become more complex, assuming new forms through outsourcing, virtual teams, alliances, and ad hoc coalitions. Most organizations have evolved into orchestrations of adaptive networks of projects that may include team members from many organizations both inside and outside traditional corporate boundaries. In this context, leaders throughout the world have recognized two operational imperatives:
- Grow the capability of one's organizations to translate strategic intent into project outcomes successfully, consistently, and predictably.
- Identify and cause the requisite maturity for different organizations to collaborate in complex endeavors with sufficient agility.
At the turn of the century, the Project Management Institute (PMI) organized an effort to work on the first of these two imperatives. Led by John Schlichter, that effort was called the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®) program, and it produced the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3)—Second Edition (PMI, 2008). That same year, work to address the second imperative originated from a different source when the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) published a book written by David S. Alberts and Richard E. Hayes, under the auspices of the U.S. DoD Command and Control Research Program (CCRP), titled Power to the Edge (Alberts & Hayes, 2003). This phrase, “power to the edge,” refers to the ability of an organization to dynamically synchronize its actions, achieve command and control (C2) agility, and increase the speed of command over a robust, networked grid via the ability to move information and decision-making capabilities to the edge. This is the interface between the organization and the systems the organizations desire to influence or affect. Power to the Edge was the first in a series of works that set the context for a trajectory of thinking that led to the NATO Network Enabled Capability Command and Control Maturity Model (N2C2M2) in 2009 (Alberts, Huber, & Moffat, 2010).
This paper describes the OPM3 and N2C2M2 maturity models. In addition, it shows how they approach, from different but related perspectives, the articulation of solutions for organizations that must collaborate adaptively in complex, non-routine endeavors that require agility. Readers should note that, generally, specific information regarding OPM3 and the N2C2M2, where not referenced otherwise, are sourced from the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model—Second Edition (PMI, 2008) and the Command and Control Research Program (CCRP) publication version of the NATO NEC C2 Maturity Model (Alberts, Huber, & Moffat, 2010), respectively.
Maturity Models as an Approach to Organizational Agility
The concept of “maturity” was popularized through the very successful “capability maturity model” for software (CMM-SW) that was developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) between 1986 and 1993. That model was developed from data collected from organizations that contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense, who funded the research, and they became the foundation from which Carnegie Mellon University created the SEI. The SEI CMM-SW gained widespread adoption when the DoD sanctioned it for use in third-party qualification, and it has continued to evolve through sponsorship from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the National Defense Industrial Association. To a certain extent, maturity models and related standards have become self-fulfilling because they shape institutional designs and management practices as well as social norms and expectations about behavior, thereby creating the behavior that they predict. Industry standards perpetuate themselves to the extent that they promulgate language and assumptions that have become widely used and accepted (Ferraro, Pfeffer, & Sutton, 2005; Biggs, 2009).
Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®)
While the SEI was developing the SEI CMM-SW, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was growing rapidly due in part to the proliferation of information technology and a corresponding shift to project-oriented work. By 1998, PMI decided to sponsor the development of its own maturity model, later titled OPM3. The OPM3 was developed between 1998 and 2003 by a grassroots volunteer effort sponsored by PMI. In May 1998, members of the PMI® Standards Committee, including John Schlichter, met to design a portfolio of project management standards. At that time, the committee decided to explore the possibility of developing a maturity model for project management in organizations. Schlichter was assigned the task of analyzing this idea and presenting findings. At the next meeting, the analysis was presented, and the committee chartered the program to develop a maturity model and tasked Schlichter with originating, growing, and directing that team, which he did until the OPM3 prototype was delivered to PMI four years later. The team grew to over 800 volunteers from 35 countries, analyzed 27 different maturity models, and deployed primary research surveys to 30,000 people as the basis of developing a global standard that was published in 2003 and later accredited and sanctioned by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
The original mission of the program to develop OPM3 was to create a maturity model that provides methods for assessing and developing the capabilities that enhance an organization's ability to deliver projects successfully, consistently, and predictably in order to accomplish the strategies of the organization and improve organizational effectiveness. The effort focused on identifying ways to make capable within an organization the organizational project management processes (of project management, program management, and portfolio management) as well as ways to cultivate the culture and environment wherein such processes are performed. A method for making such processes capable was delineated in stages named standardization, measurement, control, and (continuous) improvement (SMCI). Through implementation of this method, an organization would define and cause the requisite capability unique to its own environment and characterize its progress in the implementation of this method in terms of maturity. The model was designed as a modular architecture to allow an organization to develop any individual process or combination of processes from the domains of project, program, and portfolio management (making the model flexible and scalable).
The model was developed to be applicable to most organizations most of the time, where the term “organization” meant any goal-directed entity, whether a team, department, business unit, or enterprise. While one organization's requisite statistical process capability could naturally or legitimately differ from another organization's requirements, all organizations would achieve their own requisite capability by implementing the steps of SMCI that are characterized in four stages or levels. Thus, two different organizations could both be assessed as having achieved the control agenda to produce different statistical process capabilities respectively. Any two organizations could be assessed as having the same level of maturity while denoting different process capabilities respectively, enabling the comparison of organizations by both maturity level and capability, i.e., benchmarking. It became clear that a key capability is the capacity to recognize which organizational project management (OPM) processes to make capable and how capable to make them in order to cope with one's environment. That is, greater complexity, volatility, and uncertainty require greater organizational project management maturity.
From the outset of the effort to develop the OPM3 global standard, the strategy was to include research to distinguish how organization structures are contingent on their environments, which vary widely. Contingency theory is a class of behavioral theory that claims that there is no best way to organize a corporation, to lead a company, or to make decisions. Instead, the optimal course of action is contingent (dependent) upon the internal and external situation (Woodward, 1970; Lorsch & Morse, 1975; Scott, 2002). There are interactions between environmental uncertainty, organization structure, and various aspects of performance (Pennings, 1986). Historically, contingency theory has sought to formulate broad generalizations about the formal structures that are typically associated with or best fit the use of different technologies. The team developing OPM3 intended to identify contingency variables of different types of organizations and the ways in which the pursuit of maturity differs for each type. The goal was to integrate a contingency model into the OPM3 in order to facilitate the joint development of capabilities across different organizations that must collaborate in complex endeavors. However, as market pressure increased to publish the OPM3 global standard more quickly, the contingency research and development was de-scoped. Although an update to the OPM3 global standard occurred as a second edition in subsequent years, the work to identify and integrate contingency factors was never revisited.
NATO Network Enabled Capability Command and Control Maturity Model (N2C2M2)
The N2C2M2 was developed between 2007 and 2010 by a NATO Studies Analyses, and Simulation (SAS) Research Task Group labeled SAS-085. The group was co-chaired by David S. Alberts of the United States, James Moffat of the United Kingdom, and Reiner Huber of Germany. Forty-one members, all senior experts on command and control, who represented 11 different countries contributed directly to the development. In addition, 19 senior personnel from 9 countries acted as formal peer reviewers for the products, which were also exposed to two major international conferences for broad feedback before the N2C2M2 was finalized.
The initial goal of the N2C2M2 was to facilitate the exploration of different (alternative) approaches to the command and control of coalitions in complex endeavors. The effort focused on identifying relevant alternative approaches and the level of maturity they reflect and on specifying the variables needed to understand and differentiate those five levels—Conflicted C2, De-conflicted C2, Coordinated C2, Collaborative C2, and Edge C2. Each of these levels of maturity is appropriate for some types of situations and environments—more mature is not always better or more appropriate.
As the N2C2M2 was developed, it became clear that the approach can be applied to any organization at any level from (for the military) the tactical to the strategic or from (for civilians) the team to the enterprise level. It also became clear that more mature approaches always include the capability to work at less mature levels; for example, Collaborative C2 includes the ability to choose to function at the Coordinated or De-conflicted level. Moreover, it also became clear that a key capability is the capacity to recognize the level of maturity needed for success (effective and efficient operations) in a given situation (requisite maturity) and to function at that level.
Further, as the work progressed, it also became clear that the N2C2M2 applies to much more than military command and control. The underlying research looked at a variety of complex endeavors including military exercises and operations against insurgents, peace operations, simple and complex disaster relief missions, as well as laboratory experiments involving small groups of individuals. Complex endeavors, which involve a large number and variety of participants who have very different backgrounds, perceptions of the situation, and somewhat different goals and priorities, but share a larger purpose and are heavily interdependent, and function in a complex effects space characterized by high dynamics and considerable uncertainty. This description covers many modern organizations from business and economics to politics and sociology.
OPM3 can be applied to any organization, but it is best applied to organizations whose success depends on being able to translate strategies into projects and deliver those projects capably. The life cycle for implementing OPM3 is straightforward (Exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1. The Steps for Implementing OPM3 Are a Life Cycle
- Ascertain strategic intent, define the boundaries of the organization of interest, e.g., business unit, department, enterprise. Define the scope of organizational project management (e.g., a combination of elements from project management, program management, portfolio management) to address first within those boundaries. Analyze the stakeholders to determine who must be involved in the assessment activity in order to produce an accurate result and cultivate political will for change.
- Perform an assessment by collecting data relevant to the strategic intent of the organization, focusing on assessment criteria from OPM3, e.g. governance, process management, and organizational enablers. Produce a report of findings.
- Decide improvements to undertake. Orchestrate those improvements in accordance with the OPM3 global standard.
- Re-assess the organization to demonstrate progress from the first assessment. Make decisions regarding new improvements to undertake and whether to expand the boundaries of the organization of interest. Repeat the life cycle.
The content of OPM3 used to assess and develop organizations is articulated in terms of verifiable capability statements which are further defined in terms of corresponding outcome statements and key performance indicators (KPIs). These capability statements are the “meat” of OPM3 that makes it a capability maturity model (CMM). The capability statements are organized within best practice statements that serve as categories for the essential capability content. In order to implement OPM3 in the manner it was originally designed to be used per Exhibit 1, organizations must be assessed in terms of capability statements (not best practices, which are merely containers), and improvements corresponding to capability statements must be orchestrated in order to increase in maturity.
Method of N2C2M2 Application
Like the OPM3, the N2C2M2 can be applied to any organization, but it is best applied to complex endeavors, whether military, civil-military, or civilian. The steps are straightforward.
First, define the boundaries of the organization or set of organizations of interest (the endeavor). Capture these and conduct a meeting or series of interactions that ensure the major stakeholders are willing to conduct the assessment and understand that they must ensure data are made available.
Second, collect the relevant data about organizational structures and relationships between the entities focused on the allocation of decision rights (who has the responsibility for each decision and how are they made [e.g., centralized, decentralized, collaborative] and who does the planning), the patterns of interaction within and among the entities (both formal and informal), and the distribution of information across the entities. The focus here is on what actually happens, not necessarily what is “supposed to happen” by policy or direction. Where there are significant differences between policies, guidance, and “reality,” they should be noted.
Third, perform the assessment, being alert to the relationship between the level of maturity observed and the maturity needed to deal with the dynamics and uncertainties of the operating environment and the possibilities that different parts of the endeavor may be capable of operating at higher levels of maturity than the endeavor as a whole. An important consideration of the N2C2M2 is that different levels of maturity are appropriate for different types of environments and operational situations. The very highest levels of C2 Maturity are not only difficult to achieve, they are not needed in all situations. The N2C2M2 invokes the notion of requisite maturity, analogous to Ashby's law of requisite variety, to help users of the model think about the match or mismatch between the level of maturity at which the endeavor is capable of operating and the requisite maturity of the situation. While it is usually desirable for an endeavor to have somewhat more maturity than appears to be called for by the situation (to hedge against changes in the situation), a severe mismatch is unlikely to add value commensurate with the investment required.
Fourth, report the findings and develop recommendations designed to ensure the requisite level of maturity is achieved. This step involves collaborative discussions with the stakeholders. The product should include findings, recommendations, and milestones for the members of the endeavor to consider. The NATO study group that developed the N2C2M2 included in their final report discussion of a number of classes of applications that the maturity model could support, ranging from assessment to experimentation to organizational design. While the steps mentioned previously generally apply across these classes, the role of the N2C2M2 in conjunction with other processes and tools can vary with the application. As an example, Exhibit 2 depicts how the N2C2M2 might be used in long-range strategic planning.
Exhibit 2. The N2C2M2 and Its Contributions in Strategic Defense Planning (Alberts, Huber, & Moffat, 2010, p. 206). COBP-C2A refers to the NATO Code of Best Practice for C2 Assessment (NATO, 2002).
Key Underlying Concepts
Most leaders of organizations are familiar with process improvement, business process reengineering, and Six Sigma techniques like DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), as shown in Exhibit 3.
Exhibit 3. The DMAIC Methodology Is an Approach for Process Improvement
Although OPM3 does not denote the DMAIC process improvement methodology, it does contain questions designed to evaluate the maturity of a process management agenda (Schlichter, in press). This agenda is characterized in terms of standardization, measurement, ctronl, and (continuous) improvement (SMCI), per Exhibit 4.
Exhibit 4. The SMCI Methodology Is Used to Assess ProcessImprovement Activities (Schlichter, in press)
The standard not only helps organizations to develop the capability of their portfolio, program, and project management processes through SMCI but also helps organizations to assess and develop the organizational environment and culture in which such processes are performed. The standard describes a wide variety of factors that contribute to an environment conducive to project success; classes of these factors are listed in Exhibit 5.
Exhibit 5 - Classes of Factors that Enable Project Organizations according to the OPM3 Standard
Basis for the N2C2M2
Development of the N2C2M2 was based on work conducted over the past decade exploring how socio-technical networks and network-enabled capability can be leveraged to generate revolutionary advances in the effectiveness and agility of network-enabled forces. The foundations of NATO's approach to achieving the agility needed to deal with 21st century challenges are the tenets of network-centric operations (NCO). Robustly networking an enterprise leads to widespread information sharing and collaboration. Increased sharing and collaboration improve both individual and shared awareness; shared awareness and collaboration improve decisions, and, in the presence of edge, approaches to command and control enable self-synchronization. The result is a dramatic improvement in mission or enterprise effectiveness and agility (Alberts & Hayes, 2003, pp. 107–108) and the relationship between these tenets and the three dimensions of the space of C2 approaches (allocation of decision rights, patterns of interaction, and the distribution of information) (Alberts & Hayes, 2006, pp. 73–113; Alberts, Huber, & Moffat, 2010, pp. 43–71). Exhibit 6 depicts an extension of the tenets of NCO into a value chain, and Exhibit 7 shows how the levels of maturity associated with the N2C2M2 relate to the ability of a complex endeavor to operate in different regions of the C2 approach space.
Exhibit 6: The Network Centric Value Chain (Alberts, Huber and Moffat, 2010, p. 27)
Exhibit 7. NATO NEC C2 Maturity Levels Mapped to the C2 Approach Space (Alberts, Huber, & Moffat, 2010, p. 66)
The U.S. DoD Command and Control Research Program has published extensively on the concepts of network centric operations, network-enabled command and control, and agility. A more detailed and complete discussion of these ideas and their implications for the organization and management of complex endeavors can be found at http://www.dodccrp.org.
Maturity Model Adoption and Application
When the OPM3 global standard was completed in 2003, a need already existed in the marketplace for tools to facilitate the implementation of the standard. An early effort to address this need resulted in a questionnaire dubbed the Self-Assessment Mechanism (SAM). The SAM was an abbreviated survey. While the intention behind its release was noble, the effectiveness of the SAM was severely limited by the fact that the assessment questions merely generalized best practice statements from the standard. As explained previously, the OPM3 global standard was originally designed to require organizations to be assessed and improved based on capability statements in the OPM3 global standard (not best-practice statements, which merely organize capability statements). Not only were capability statements not represented in the SAM assessment questions but also multiple best-practice statements were combined into single questions, thus diluting further content that did not contain the essential ingredients in the first place. For this reason, Schlichter objected to the SAM when it was first proposed, but the pressure for OPM3 support tools prevailed, and the SAM was released in conjunction with the standard. The SAM evolved into a product called “OPM3® Online,” but the defects described earlier remained. This resulted in some controversy (Schlichter, 2009). To its credit, PMI recently announced that OPM3 Online would no longer be available for direct use by the public. It will be available only through OPM3 Professionals who are certified in the use of OPM3 ProductSuite®, a software application that is currently the only tool sold by PMI to enable maturity assessments in the manner required for implementation of the OPM3 global standard. It should be noted, however, that the successful implementation of organizational project management (OPM) or the OPM3 global standard requires not only tools but also experienced people who specialize in this discipline.
While some have argued that OPM3 Online may have slowed market adoption of the OPM3 global standard, the number of companies using OPM3 has increased steadily over time. The company of one of the co-authors of this paper has facilitated the use of OPM3 in automatic data processing (ADP), Battelle Memorial Institute, BSM Group, C.A.R.E., Det Norske Veritas, Defense Intelligence Agency (US DIA – DoD), Harris Corporation, Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior's National Information Center, M.A.R.T.A., Melco-Crown Entertainment, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Panasonic-Mobile, Pearson Education Measurement, Popular Financial, the Project Management Institute, the Quality Assurance Institute, SAP, T-Mobile, TATA, Valassis, and others (OPM Experts, 2010a).
The N2C2M2 was developed as a framework and set of guidance to be applied by analysts throughout the C2 community. N2C2M2 provides metrics and assessment guidelines to help analysts and researchers assess the collective C2 capabilities of an endeavor and determine its placement along the scale of C2 maturity levels.
Upon its completion, the N2C2M2 was approved by the NATO Research and Technology Organization, and it is being adapted for application by organizations such as the NATO C2 Center for Excellence and NATO ACT. During development, N2C2M2-based maturity assessments were conducted for numerous complex endeavors, including those associated with responses to Hurricane Katrina, the 2002 Elbe River floods, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the 2005 Pakistani earthquake. It has also been used for NATO operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as for comparisons of the potential maturity of alternative unit organizations in U.S. forces (Light Infantry, Airborne, and Stryker Brigade Combat Teams). These use cases are described by Alberts, Huber, and Moffat (2010) and in material posted online at http://www.dodccrp.org/html4/research_nato.html.
Combining OPM3 and N2C2M2
OPM3 and N2C2M2 have important and useful similarities and differences. While they are different maturity models, they are congruent with regard to life cycles of implementation. Differences between the models are complementary, and one can argue that an unintended benefit of N2C2M2 has been to exemplify a contingency model of the sort that those who originally developed OPM3 intended to incorporate into OPM3. As complex endeavors have evolved to require respective organizations to develop the ability to advance their strategic intent through nonroutine temporary endeavors or projects capably (which can be achieved with OPM3), complex endeavors also require the respective constituent organizations to work capably—and agilely—together (which can be achieved with N2C2M2). Efforts to leverage the best of both models have begun (OPM Experts 2010b, 2010c).
This paper has described two maturity model frameworks for planning for and assessing organizational and cross-organizational capability for agility. Though developed independently by two different communities, the authors have been intrigued by the degree to which the two frameworks deal with similar concepts and attempt to drive organizations to similar objectives. The authors believe that the command and control and project/program/portfolio management communities may be able to leverage the synergies that exist in the two different approaches to agility, particularly in the areas of capability development and long-term strategic engagement—whether with potential business partners or with potential mission partners. It is our hope that by discussing OPM3 and the N2C2M2 with the community of project management professionals that it will be possible to leverage the rich knowledge that this community has grown over time to synthesize evolved frameworks that utilize the best ideas from these two perspectives – and others – to help our organizations and endeavors intelligently strive for the agility that will be needed for future (and in many cases current) sustainable success.
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© 2010, John Schlichter, Jimmie McEver and Richard Hayes
Originally published as part of 2010 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Baltimore, MD USA