Project Management

The Project Management Capability Immaturity Model

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The Project Management Capability Immaturity Model


Game Theory, PMO, Politics, Risk Management, Strategic Management


In 1988, Watts Humphrey began working for Carnegie Melon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI) after retiring from IBM[i]. At the request of the U.S. Air Force, he began assembling and formalizing a structure that could be used to evaluate the stages (or “levels”) of the capability maturity of organizations involved in developing software, resulting in the book Managing the Software Process in 1989.[ii] It didn’t take long for other industries – including PM – to realize that many of the aspects in the Capability Maturity Model were highly applicable to their own industries, and many derivative models sprung up.

In the original CMM, the five “Levels” were:

  1. Initial,
  2. Repeatable,
  3. Defined.
  4. Capable, and
  5. Efficient.[iii]

In 1998, Captain Tom Schorsch (USAF) published a paper that, in my opinion, has to be one of the most brilliant derivative Management Science pieces ever written, The Capability ImMaturity Model[iv]. In it, Capt. Schorsch discusses a structure where an organization’s capability actually regresses, in “levels” going backwards from the original CMM’s “1,” in this order:

 0.  Negligent

-1.  Obstructive

-2.  Contemptuous

-3.  Undermining[v].


If members of GTIM Nation haven’t read this article yet, it’s absolutely worth your time. It’s both hilarious and insightful, perhaps hilarious because it’s insightful. I would like to adapt Capt. Schorsch’s structure to a more nuanced version that can be expected to be encountered in the PM realm, specifically, because much of the organizational opposition I have seen to PM capability advancement tends to fall into highly predictable categories, by the same organizational elements.

For example, I fully believe that it is Negligent for the Director of a newly-formed Project Management Office (PMO) to spend any time or energy in developing a risk management (no initial caps) capability. Early-stage PMO efforts simply must be directed towards properly capturing scope, and reliably expressing that scope in cost and schedule baselines (formerly known as the “triple constraint”). Once these three baselines have been established, it’s possible to begin the process of quantifying project performance, and inform management decisions going forward. These two steps – capturing the data needed to establish the baselines, and creating the information streams that report on project performance – may sound simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy. Any deviation from accomplishing these two early-stage goals bleeds time, energy, and budget away from advancing capability, and will often set the stage for the exact type of regression described in the Capability ImMaturity Model. Nevertheless, many of the risk managers (no initial caps) whom I’ve known will be driven into table-pounding fury if a robust risk management (nic) function isn’t pursued from PMO inception, even though (a) such a capability requires significant time and resources to accomplish, and (b) it offers virtually no usable project portfolio performance information.

Even if the risk managers (nic) don’t succeed in drawing down your organizational impetus for broadly improving PM, you can almost count on the anti-PM presence to try and Obstruct your efforts. I forget where I first heard the saying “project teams detest performance measurement because it vividly shows their lack of performance,” but it’s apt in more instances than one might expect. Organizations that are new to PM are almost guaranteed to retain elements that simply don’t want the scrutiny that comes with PM-centric management information systems, and it should come as no surprise that they will Obstruct its advancement.

When it comes to enduring macro-organizational Contempt, few will equal our friends, the accountants. It’s not because they are naturally given to belligerence, quite the contrary. It’s because almost all business schools (in the United States, anyway) still teach that the point of all management is to “maximize shareholder wealth.” It’s perfectly natural for them to perceive a bunch of PMBOK Guide® enthusiasts who maintain the importance of attaining customer- determined scope, cost, and schedule goals as misinformed and, frankly, straying out of their proper business model – influencing lanes.

Few medium-to-large organizations can have their PM capability regress all the way to the Undermining level without the enemies of the PMO engaging in deceit, or (Maccoby archetype) Jungle Fighter tactics. The good news here, though, is that, by the time the macro-organization has devolved to this level of PM capability immaturity, only two paths forward remain. Either the Undermining elements within the organization will be found out and expelled, or the organization itself will fail.

Either way, the PM talent will have been proven right, if only in the post-mortem analysis.



[i] Wikipedia contributors. (2024, May 25). Capability Maturity Model. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:26, May 28, 2024, from

[ii] Humphrey, W. S. (1989). Managing the Software Process. SEI series in software engineering. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-18095-2.

[iii] Wikipedia contributors. (2024, May 25). Capability Maturity Model. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:45, May 28, 2024, from

[iv] T. Schorsch, "The Capability Im-Maturity Model (CIMM)", U.S. Air Force (CrossTalk Magazine), 1996.

[v] Ibid.

Posted on: May 31, 2024 12:32 AM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
That point of regression that triggers immaturity! Thanks Sir

thank you

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