Interpreting the P-CMM
One section in the book talks about interpreting the P-CMM. This is extremely important, because the key to the model is accurate interpretation of results, goals, and practices. The editors discuss how different organizational factors such as size, composition of the workforce, and business objectives need to be considered, both while using the P-CMM, and while assessing the impact of the practices. They point out that the P-CMM does not establish minimal criteria for implementing workforce practices; rather, it lists certain required preconditions and then leaves organizations a lot of leeway with the implementation.
There is an interesting discussion on how a practice can be measured. Some measurements are an inherent part of the process area, whereas others might be required to determine the status of an implementation or the effectiveness of practices. It is sometimes important to aggregate the results of these measurements, so that the goals can be analyzed at the organizational level.
The book also warns about perceiving the various maturity levels as stable states. The editors point out that if workforce competencies are not consistently updated and renewed, then the organization's capability soon degrades to a lower level. Another mistake that some organizations make is to succumb to what the editors call "level fever": Attaining level maturity becomes more important than achieving the business benefits. This can cause an organization to lose focus, and may lead to incorrect, and sometimes over-zealous, assessment.
Another thing the book emphasizes is that the activities in various process areas need not be carried out in order. An organization can elect to proceed with an activity at a higher level if it derives substantial benefit from it. However, skipping a level completely is not advisable; it is the equivalent of constructing a house without a foundation. The processes at lower levels need to be stable before an organization can successfully move to the next, higher level.
This book provides a structured approach to dealing with some of the common problems faced by managers. These include issues such as communication, compensation, performance management, and training and development of employees. In the course of discussing the performance management process at the Managed Level (Level 2), the book lists the resources required by managers and describes the training managers should receive; it also suggests practices that lead to effective performance management. These practices include measurable performance objectives, ongoing communication between manager and employee, periodic and event-driven reviews, and detailed documentation of employee accomplishments against their performance objectives.
One thing that's missing from the book is a detailed case study of how an organization actually "matured" by adopting the P-CMM: how it adopted the processes and practices, and in what order; how closely it adhered to the recommended guidelines; and how it reflected on the company's bottom line. In addition, the book concentrated mostly on high-tech companies. It would have been interesting to see how this framework relates to older, more traditional industries; there was not much discussion about whether the model is even applicable to those industries.
Despite these minor objections, however, I would strongly recommend this book. It is exactly what the title says: an excellent guide for "improving the workforce." Moreover, it is a fantastic reference on management issues that crop up ever so often in the workplace.