What Is A Maturity Model? Overview, Examples + Free Assessment

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Article by 
Cascade Team
  —  Published 
February 22, 2024
February 24, 2024

When does it make sense to invest in your systems, technology, and processes? When is the time and expense—the research, restructuring and optimization, onboarding and training— worthwhile? And when is it not necessary? 

These are hard questions to answer and something every business leader has to wrestle with. Maturity models are here to help. They enable you to evaluate where to go next to speed up your organization’s growth.  

In this article, we define the different types of maturity models and explore which ones are best for your business scenario. We’ll also look at the benefits of maturity models and how you can get started in using one.

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What Is A Maturity Model?

A maturity model is a structured framework that assesses an organization's capabilities and processes within a specific area to determine its level of maturity or advancement. It provides a clear roadmap for growth, guiding organizations from initial stages to higher levels of proficiency. 

The Benefits Of Maturity Models

Here's a closer look at how maturity models can transform your business and its strategic journey:

  • Provide a clear progression path: Maturity models offer a structured roadmap that guides your business through distinct stages of development. This clarity enables your teams to track their progress and align their efforts with strategic goals.
  • Easily identify performance gaps: Maturity models allow you to assess your current capabilities against predefined benchmarks. This comparison helps pinpoint gaps in your processes, enabling targeted improvements that minimize inefficiencies and lay a robust foundation for future growth.
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement: Using a maturity model helps instill a growth mindset in the organization by focusing on continuous improvement rather than just achieving a fixed goal. Regular assessments motivate teams to innovate, adapt, and strive for excellence, enhancing overall organizational performance.
  • Provide a standardized framework for measuring progress: This facilitates benchmarking against industry standards and competitors, allowing organizations to gauge their standing in the broader landscape.
  • Create a clear and shared understanding of the problem: With clearly defined stages, objectives, and milestones, maturity models strengthen communication within the organization. This clarity in communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards common objectives.

Types Of Maturity Models In An Organization

There are several types of maturity models designed to help organizations assess their current maturity and transition to more advanced stages. 

Cascade Strategy Maturity Model

Cascade Strategy Maturity Model diagram
Cascade Strategy Maturity Model diagram

The Cascade Strategy Maturity Model is a framework that helps organizations assess their strategy execution capabilities. It consists of four stages, each representing a different level of strategic maturity:

Stage 1: Dispersed

  • Characteristics: Organizations feel the pain and chaos of scattered work. There’s likely a level of short-term direction, but the organization as a whole is not unified underneath a clear, long-term plan.
  • Symptoms: Decisions are mostly reactive, approaches are fragmented, and there’s often duplication of effort.
  • Strategy structure: The strategy structure is unclear, focusing on short-term outcomes rather than long-term goals, with the business often mapping its strategy reactively based on recent factors. 
  • Governance: It’s almost non-existent, with no effective systems to report on progress due to the lack of a clear long-term direction. While some teams track and report program or project-level KPIs in team meetings, this information rarely rolls up to the business level. 
  • Team alignment: It’s low, with teams typically working in isolation on standard operational tasks that do not contribute to strategic changes within the business. 

Stage 2: Organized

  • Characteristics: Organizations have an overarching strategic approach, yet struggle to break it down into actionable, consistent, and repeatable processes that effectively drive towards strategic outcomes.
  • Symptoms: Teams often feel disengaged or disconnected from the strategy. Strategy, typically an annual exercise, is largely forgotten post-presentation. A significant volume of work remains disconnected or lives outside the strategic focus of the business.
  • Strategy structure: There's a broader strategic direction, but it hasn't reached more functional areas of the business. Some areas may operate on generalized objectives or programs of work, rather than specific, targeted strategies.
  • Governance: Governance is limited, with sparse reporting and tracking against strategic goals. Strategy reporting sessions are rare, if they occur at all. Performance metrics are sometimes used at the program or initiative level, but not always. 
  • Team alignment: Collaborative efforts are evident, yet there is a need to integrate these synergies for a unified and seamless organizational direction. 

Stage 3: Consolidated 

  • Characteristics: Organizations have most strategic components in place, from high-level to operational work. However, they struggle to refine these elements, bringing agility and ensuring that strategies remain relevant and dynamic.
  • Symptoms: Strategy is more visible yet occasionally sluggish. It’s well structured but often too prescriptive, hindering the ability to quickly react to big shifts. 
  • Strategy structure: Well-structured. Initiatives are outcome-driven and have a one-to-one mapping with a key success metric. 
  • Governance: Tracking milestones are set at least quarterly. However, there is room for more flexibility and proactivity in reporting, moving away from rigid, manual processes. 
  • Team alignment: While most teams align with the strategy, it often feels top-down. Teams understand their company strategy, but they don’t feel empowered to contribute to it or see themselves as individual owners of the work that aligns with the consolidated strategy. 

Stage 4: Embedded

  • Characteristics: In this stage, organizations experience a fully embedded strategy within teams and operating rhythms. Silos are rare, with all teams understanding dependencies and layered work, thus operating in a fully aligned manner. 
  • Symptoms: Strategy feels like a second nature. Teams have a full grasp of how their work impacts the strategy. Operational work doesn’t contradict strategic focus.
  • Strategy structure: Structured for agility, with a focus on flexibility and adaptation to both internal and external changes.
  • Governance: Reporting is perceived more as a live exercise than a manual process. Updates are frequent with a clear governance schedule. Team progress reporting occurs at least weekly. 
  • Team alignment: With the strategy fully embedded, it’s a joint top-down and bottom-up exercise. Teams are empowered to align their activities with the strategic vision set by company leaders. 

💡When to use: 

The Cascade Strategy Maturity Model is best used when an organization wants to: 

Are you curious about where your organization stands today? Take our free, interactive quiz to determine your strategy maturity level. Once completed, you’ll receive tailored recommendations for next steps. 
Free Strategy Maturity Assessment Get tailored insights:  Assess your organization's strategic maturity.   Start the free assessment

Capability Maturity Model (CMM)

Capability Maturity Model (CMM) diagram
Capability Maturity Model (CMM) diagram

CMM was initially designed by the Software Engineering Institute for software development teams, but it’s been useful for organizations in general. Its evolved version, the capability maturity model integrated (CMMI), was developed as a precursor to other models like the project management maturity model. 


  1. Initial: There are no internal processes, and everything is ad hoc. People do what they think should be done in the manner they think they should be completed. 
  2. Repeatable: Basic processes are established and done repeatedly. Projects are managed with some consistency.
  3. Defined: Processes are well-documented and standardized across the organization. 
  4. Managed: Processes are measured and controlled quantitatively to achieve specific quality and performance objectives. Teams are managed around these processes, which also shape other actions.
  5. Optimized: Continuous process improvement is ingrained, and the organization is focused on innovation and optimization.

💡When to use: 

Use this model to evaluate your team’s awareness of your software development processes and enhance your processes to deliver more reliable outcomes. 

Business Process Maturity Model (BPMM)

Business Process Maturity Model (BPMM) diagram
Business Process Maturity Model (BPMM) diagram

The Business Process Maturity Model (BPMM) was developed after CMM and is more focused on overall business processes rather than just software development or engineering processes.

BPMM assesses your organization’s effectiveness in managing and improving your business processes. It identifies strengths and areas for improvement, aiding in process optimization and strategic alignment. 

It has five basic levels like CMM above, with some differences::

  1. Initial: Processes are ad hoc, unstructured, and inconsistent. There’s minimal documentation or control, and teams are reactive to crises. Management practices are also inconsistent.
  2. Managed: Basic processes are documented, but teams still work in silos. There’s a basic management foundation, and some controls are in place, but consistency is not widespread.
  3. Standardized: Control measures and uniform processes are evident across the organization. Teams know the basic processes and are working towards consistency.
  4. Predictable: Processes are well-documented and repeatable. Teams aim for continuous improvement by controlling variables to achieve desired outcomes.
  5. Innovating: Business processes are consistently improving, and teams demonstrate a commitment to ongoing optimization and innovation.

Level 1 is the lowest level that reflects actions that need the most improvement, while level 5 is the highest and reflects a fully realized and effective operation. 

💡When to use: 

Use this model if you want to enhance operational efficiency, streamline workflows, and drive continuous process improvement. 

Agile ISO Maturity Model (AIMM)

Agile ISO Maturity Model (AIMM) diagram
Agile ISO Maturity Model (AIMM) diagram

AIMM combines agile practices with ISO standards, ensuring that agile methodologies are aligned with the rigor and compliance demanded by ISO frameworks. It uses standardized levels set by the international organization for standardization and focuses more on individual phases of the development lifecycle rather than sequential development. 


  1. Documented: All of your processes are documented in some form, either by a Word doc, Excel spreadsheet, or a dedicated tool. Teams also know the basic processes.
  2. Followed: Team members adhere to processes regularly and can point out flaws and inefficiencies in the process.
  3. Managed: There is a structure in place to shape and form existing processes so they can constantly adapt to the needs of the organization. This can be a dedicated process management software or a specialist team.
  4. Optimized: The infrastructure now yields accurate data to help you optimize your processes and give you an accurate model of what happened in the past and what will happen in the future.
  5. Integrated: The core business already has systemized processes, and you can now develop new processes, such as internal peer audit systems, to link various stakeholders.

💡When to use: 

Use this model when you’re adopting agile practices within an organization that needs to adhere to ISO standards.

Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM)

This model follows the same maturity levels as BPPM, but focuses only on improving project management processes. Using PMMM, an organization evaluates its project management practices, from ad hoc approaches to well-optimized, standardized project processes.


  1. Initial: There are no established practices or standards, but teams recognize the project management processes. 
  2. Structured: There’s documentation of basic processes but also a lack of consistent understanding and involvement for all projects.
  3. Institutionalized: Almost all projects use established processes that are set as organizational standards. Management is routinely part of key project issues.
  4. Managed: Past performance and future outlook are considered when making decisions. Processes are all well documented and in place to support metrics.
  5. Optimized: Management focuses on continuous improvement, and processes are used to optimize project management activities.

💡When to use: 

Organizations, PMOs, and project managers should use this model when they want to improve their project management capabilities, project outcomes, and execution.

How To Use Maturity Models To Shift Across The Curve  

The first step is to identify where you are today. The second is to actually move to the next level. 

1. Identify your current level

Determine your degree of maturity. Using your chosen maturity model from the list above, create an honest self-assessment of your company’s processes and gauge your current level. 

Most maturity models provide a maturity assessment test to eliminate the guesswork. If you want to assess the strategy maturity within your organization, use Cascade’s Strategy Assessment. 

2. Decide what level you want to reach

Once you determine your current state, decide how far you want to progress. You don’t have to go all the way up to the top maturity level. You can take it one level at a time. 

Factor in your company culture and your team’s capability to progress through the levels. Moving from one stage to the next already involves a ton of change, so make sure your organization is ready for it.

📚Recommended read: How To Implement A Change Management Strategy (+ Template)

3. Create a roadmap to get there

Now that you’ve identified your starting point and desired destination, craft a path using a strategic roadmap to get from point A to point B. As you begin your transition from one maturity level to the next, you need a concrete plan that’s broken down into actionable steps. 

Assign owners to each task and drive accountability. This will help your team work together and be aligned around shared goals. 

4. Monitor the progress and adjust

As you make strides toward maturity, monitoring progress becomes vital. You need to constantly monitor your efforts and, if needed, make adjustments along the way. This iterative approach ensures your journey is adaptive and effective. 

Cascade’s monitoring capabilities provide you with real-time dashboards and reports so you don’t miss a beat. With a powerful strategy dashboard, you can track your KPIs in one place and quickly find insights that will help you focus and prioritize your resources. 

💡Want to learn more about Cascade? Check out upcoming free webinars where we share all the tips and tricks on how to make the most of it. 

Move Along The Strategic Maturity Curve Faster With Cascade 🚀

If you don’t understand where you are today, you won’t get to where you want to be. To move fast in business and maintain your competitive advantage, you need to have a strong foundation built around systems, processes, and technology. 

Maturity models serve as the compass that helps business leaders and their teams focus their efforts, time, and investments. 

Don’t play the guessing game. Evaluate your business strategy’s maturity with Cascade’s Strategy Assessment.

Free Strategy Maturity Assessment Get tailored insights:  Assess your organization's strategic maturity.   Start the free assessment

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