Project Management

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Blending Waterfall & Agile… a Dual Method Culture

The ongoing debate between the Waterfall Campers and the Agile Camper’s should had never began as an either/or battle of righteousness. The Waterfall/Agile dual method culture is a management model I’ve been advocating for some time, but I’ll admit the audience remains largely split on the subject. I’m happy to report there are others out there who are of the dual culture mindset. I came across an article on this very subject. It is like a breath of relief that there are others out there that understand that it is not a competition between waterfall methodologies and Agile Framework. This is the very paradigm I have focused my Project Management methodology approach upon. I would like to take this opportunity to steer these presented thoughts a little further down the path to successful implementation. The article that I’m referring to can be found at this link:


Topic #1- How Difficult is it to make a change?


Change, in my opinion, is not difficult…it is uncomfortable. I’d argue that change is actually quite simple. It’s staying on course to the end goal is the tough part. Now perhaps I mincing terms here, but I strongly believe it is important to distinguish the difference between change and staying on course. Change is instantaneous like flipping a switch. Flipping that switch is that critical point between stimulus and response that sets you back into the correct direction.


Any change in process must be incremental in almost all working environments assuming that the business is currently engaged in critical path work to serve the customer. I’m not insinuating a partial change, but rather a staged change beginning with a designated team who can adopt a change in process without crippling the active project currently in workflow. An ideal opportunity would be a mature team in a reasonably stable stage of a project where minimal disruption would result.


Question….what are we actually going to change?


What is changing is the way we visualize and measure the work. For simplicity, let’s assume that we’re instigating change to a project currently running the company’s legacy process for their project monitor and control. For this example, we’ll consider changing a classic end-to-end waterfall methodology. Keep in mind, a similar situation can also consider change in the other direction (i.e. end-to-end Agile transition to Waterfall). The first thing to understand, is that the corporate and project team work flow is not affected by change in monitor, control, and visualization of the work in progress. It is also important to understand that the choice of methodology does not set the work flow. Work Flow is set independent of the methodology.


The corporate work flow models that are linear are best suited to Waterfall methodology. The non-linear work flow models (i.e. highly dynamic) are best suited to Agile Framework management. It is not a contest, but rather a choice of which methodology to apply to which work flow.


Topic #2- How quickly can you expect to see a measureable success?


In order to quantitatively measure the impact and affect, you need to have established a clear expectation, and a clear set of metrics to make a comparison. For our example, moving a dynamic work flow to an Agile framework will produce an immediate benefit to the project team doing the work. An agile framework is far superior at the “hands on day-to-day” level of work. The team decides what needs to be done, and collaborates on getting it done. This fact must be communicated because the power that results from taking back control is extremely liberating. On that note, it is important to include soft measureable metrics such as workplace satisfaction. Early stage improvement in the work environment will produce significant quantified metrics down the road.


Topic #3- How do we report the metrics gathered from Agile into our Waterfall Earned Value?


This is ultimately a challenge of currency conversion assuming that the Agile work planning is structured. A structured Agile work plan would have clearly defined tasks in the backlog queue, each with an estimate for effort in measured in hours. Each task would produce a tangible artifact as a deliverable. I’ve seen esoteric Agile metrics like models of Ford Trucks and Farm Animals to size tasks which will not be translatable to anyone outside the closely held team. It is important to maintain continuity between the linear and dynamic methodologies. One version or another of a burn down chart translates into a ratio for % Complete and % Physical Work Complete. Metrics can be merged if handled correctly.


In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with this visualization. A project is a horse race with a clear start and a clear finish. Agile deals with the jockey and the horse; Waterfall deals with the race track. Both methodologies are needed for a race to occur, and both need to be managed.

One thought on “Blending Waterfall & Agile… a Dual Method Culture”

  1. Hi, thank you for this post I agree with you that Change, in my opinion, is not difficult…it is uncomfortable. I’d argue that change is actually quite simple. It’s staying on course to the end goal is the tough part. very useful information

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