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Agency Improvement: Use of Capability Maturity Model (CMM)



  • How the FHWA SHRP2 Initiatives were used by CalTrans to develop a TSMO framework
  • How a Capability Maturity Model (CMM) exercise was used to focus on needed organizational structure changes to promote TSMO
  • How a pilot project in Caltrans District 7 Los Angeles resulted in a successful TSMO based organizational structure


As congestion spreads and intensifies and the level of incidents, delays and disruptions increase, the level of service and reliability on the roadway systems in many areas continues to deteriorate. Pursuit of a Transportation System Management and Operations (TSMO) framework is compelling to improve these conditions. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) initiated the development of a comprehensive program to implement and support TSMO throughout the organization. The TSMO program leverages key industry initiatives to transform Caltrans and its partners to a performance-driven system management culture and prepare the organization to actively manage and operate the transportation system. Initiatives implemented by Caltrans included two Strategic Highway Research Projects (SHRP) 2 research products, SHRP2 LO1 “Integrating Business Processes to Improve Reliability”, and SHRP2 LO6 “Institutional Architectures to Advance Operational Strategies.” Part of this implementation included selecting Caltrans District 7, Los Angeles as a pilot organization to undergo assessment and implement the findings of the capability maturity model (CMM). The methodology focused on the institutional arrangements, namely organizational structure and staff capabilities, to promote technical focus, efficiency, and accountability.


Efforts to align Caltrans with Transport TSMO principals began in early 2013 with a multi- agency workshop at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) California Division Office in Sacramento.  This was followed by a more focused workshop in Caltrans District 7 in Los Angeles. The workshops provided the forum to develop a consensus evaluation of the state of practice and as well as develop next steps in advancing the effectiveness of Caltrans’ TSMO efforts at the statewide and District levels.  The Workshop participants identified the current levels of capability as related to key processes, organization, staff, and collaboration.  Participants also related actions in each area that could assist the region in defining the priorities of statewide and regional TSMO efforts. A Capability Maturity approach was utilized in the workshops that focused on the key dimensions that impact program effectiveness: i) business processes, ii) systems and technology, iii) performance measurement, iv) culture, v) organization/staffing, and vi) collaboration. A summary matrix of the consensus issues and views of the participants was developed.  A “Capability Maturity Model” (CMM) was employed to support self-evaluation and identification of critical priority next steps.  The Model focused on six key dimensions needed for improving efficiency and outcome effectiveness.  The dimensions which were considered in the workshop were:

  • Planning, programming, and resource allocation for TSMO – Programs are planned and executed based on mobility needs. Capital, operating and maintenance costs are properly allocated to ensure that systems operations and management has its appropriate place in the agencies’ overall improvement programs.
  • Systems and Technology – Documentation of systems and procedures, including applications selection, ConOps, architecture and field procedures, are standardized to ensure consistency and reliability.
  • Performance measurement – Measurement, reporting, and use in continuous improvement to achieve customer service outcomes.
  • Culture that reflects an understanding of TSMO potential and its role in the transportation agencies customer service mission and investment context.
  • Organizational structure and staff capabilities to promote technical focus, efficiency and accountability.
  • Collaboration among partners who must be involved in TSMO service delivery, aligned to ensure effective application of TSMO strategies.

Having completed the CMM foundational evaluation and a separate Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) assessment, Caltrans District 7 (covering Los Angeles and Ventura Counties) embarked on an initiative that focused on the “institutional” dimension, namely organizational structure and staff capabilities to promote technical focus, efficiency and accountability.  The initiative referred to as “Organizing of District 7 Traffic Operations for Corridor Management,” was undertaken by the Caltrans to help align the Division of Traffic Operations in urban districts with the principles of system management. Its goal was to help foster a system TSMO culture in order to maximize the performance of the existing and future transportation system. The effort addressed only District 7, the most congested Caltrans District in California. It was meant as a pilot that other urban Districts can use as an example to implement this program.  The project called for developing two to three prospective organizational charts, presenting these options to District management and revising them as appropriate, developing a more detailed organizational chart for the preferred option selected, and working with District management and staff to develop an implementation plan.

A Strategic Team was assembled to oversee the project from start to end. It was comprised of management representatives from Caltrans Headquarters Division of Traffic Operations, the District 7 Deputy District Director for Traffic Operations, the District 7 Deputy District Director for Planning, and management staff from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). Based on input from the Strategic Team, the organizational options were to focus on the following priorities in order to align District 7’s organizational structure to support more effective and sustainable deployment of TSMO strategies:

  • Establish Accountability for Corridor Performance
  • Improve Planning for Operations
  • Expand Real-Time Active Traffic Management
  • Address Stovepipe Problems
  • Ensure Responsiveness to Partners

To address the priorities outlined above, organizational options were developed and vetted through District 7 executive management, Operations Office Chiefs, Senior Operations staff, and the Strategic Team.

A preferred short term and long term organizational change option was selected by the team as shown in Exhibits[VD1]   (orange denotes significant changes). The reorganization was deployed in small, manageable steps by converting to corridor management a few corridors at a time. From numerous discussions with District 7 Executive staff and operations managers, there was general agreement with the proposed reorganization. Nevertheless, everyone acknowledged that the change was not a simple one.  The District was granted flexibility during the initial phases of this pilot. This flexibility involved adjustments to existing funding schemes, as well as recognizing that there may be some temporary inefficiencies and reductions in productivity during the transitional period.  The full reorganization took effect in July 2017 and today, the District is reaping the benefits of full accountability assigned to each of the Corridor Managers (CM) who has direct responsibility over safety and mobility of their respective corridors.


Several meetings were held with District 7 management to identify issues with the current organization before developing organizational options for consideration. These meetings included:

  • Monthly Strategic Team Meetings -- A strategic team was formed and included management representatives from the Headquarters Division of Traffic Operations, the District 7 Deputy District Director for Traffic Operations, the District 7 Deputy District Director for Planning, and management staff from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).
  • One-on-one Meetings with the mid managers (Office Chiefs) of the District 7 Division of Traffic Operations.
  • Workshop with all the Office Chiefs of the District 7 Division of Traffic Operations.
  • Workshop with the supervisor Senior Engineers of the District 7 Division of Traffic Operations.
  • Meetings with the Executive Management of District 7.
  • Coordination and consultation with the Division of Human Resources and Labor Relations.
  • All-staff employee outreach and work preference surveys.
  • Outreach to Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other regional stakeholders.

The TSMO-based reorganization journey that began in 2012, was substantially completed by mid-2017.  The framework has become a model for Caltrans to implement in urban Districts including District 4 (San Francisco Bay Area) and District 12 (Orange County).


Building collaborative interagency partnerships to improve transportation system management remains a Caltrans priority. Regional Operations Forums (ROFs) proved a positive tool to build effective interagency partnerships toward achieving TSMO goals. In addition to helping build interagency partnerships, these workshops served to assess the capabilities of the participants in collaborative transportation system management and operations environments and helped in the realization of those goals.  As a result, Caltrans began to mainstream the planning and deploying of Transportation TSMO. TSMO strategies support the new Caltrans’ Mission, “Provide a safe, integrated and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability” and Vision “A performance-driven, transparent and accountable organization that values its people, resources and partners, and meets new challenges through leadership, innovation and teamwork”.  Staff is motivated and has taken advantage of national research and tools developed through the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP), to develop their own Capability Maturity Model Self-Assessment in March 2013. With implementation in mind, Caltrans sought and received Lead Adopter status and has gained momentum to deliver Regional Operations Forums with Technical Assistance funding through the SHRP2 Program.

While there are many foundational strategies being employed to move Caltrans towards TSMO, there is still more work to do. Caltrans believes being successful means improved travel time reliability and the effective movement of people and goods, leading to greater economic vitality, improved quality of life, and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Caltrans’ workforce is focused on TSMO and is establishing comprehensive guidance including process improvements, implementation plans, and training materials that are vital to the successful initiation and implementation of a statewide Connected Corridors Program on the most challenging corridors in California.(1)

(1) Excerpts from Moving Toward TSM&O, By Malcolm Dougherty Caltrans Director

Organizational Capability Element

    Program Status/Authorities

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Case Studies & Lessons Learned

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