Immaturity models

The concept of “maturity models” is one that has been bouncing around the IT industry since the 1970s (according to the oracle that is Wikipedia). In one of my conversations last week at the ITDF, we stumbled upon the idea of an immaturity model. The thinking goes something like this:

Traditional maturity models are predicated on the idea that, over time, an organisation should become increasingly refined in its operational ability as it learns from what has gone before to be able to be better going forward. The Capability Maturity Model (CMM), so beloved of offshored development suppliers, is a good case in point: five levels beginning at Initial, through Repeatable, Defined, Managed, to eventually get to Optimized. In a known, constant world (such as in the world of physical manufacturing, from where much of this continuous improvement thinking stemmed) this is a great approach. Probably.

The world of business change and technology management is one of ambiguity and uncertainty.  “Constants”, such as those that exist in the world of physics, are rare and probably can’t be relied upon. It also seems (according to initial findings of research being conducted by Alex Budzier and Bent Flyvbjerg at Oxford University) that many of the assumptions of risk that underpin much traditional IT governance, particularly in the realm of projects and project management are wrong (more on this at a later date). Finally, it seems to me that creativity and innovation tend to stop when people become locked into established ways of working, particularly when those ways of working are lauded as “excellent” or “best practice”.

So how about an IT Immaturity Model? Could we develop ways of thinking about how the management of technology can be done with one eye on efficiency and sensible control, but another on maintaining the naïveté that is necessary to be able to spot new opportunities and ways of working? Human systems and complex, fast changing markets are very different beasts to the worlds of physics and industrial engineering; the management of technology within organisations would do well from a constant stocktaking from a Joharian perspective, perpetually being aware of the fact that we don’t know everything, but that as long as we realise that we probably will do a better job.

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