Waterfall explained in terms of agile

I’m getting a little fed up with descriptions of project development lifecycles starting with waterfall, and then describing iterative and agile development in waterfall terms. What happens if we start on the other side?

Project development lifecycles

  • Agile: The project creates a roadmap for a year or two, commits to the scope a delivery in a few weeks to a few months, adapts their commitment as they learn more and irons out the details of each task just prior to when it’s performed.
  • Incremental: The project commits to the scope the whole roadmap at the beginning of the project and delivers bits every few months according to this plan. The details of a task are ironed a few months ahead of time. Changes to the full project scope are handled as exceptions.
  • Waterfall: The project commits to the whole scope of the roadmap at the beginning of the project and postpones delivery of all functionality until the end of the project. The project avoids spending time to verify details after any implementation has started. Learning is handled as exceptions.

Agile described in terms of waterfall (“do a full project every few weeks”) sounds chaotic. Waterfall explained in terms of agile sounds insane.

About Johannes Brodwall

Johannes is Principal Software Engineer in SopraSteria. In his spare time he likes to coach teams and developers on better coding, collaboration, planning and product understanding.
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5 Responses to Waterfall explained in terms of agile

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Thinking Inside a Bigger Box » Waterfall explained in terms of agile -- Topsy.com

  2. Rgs_es says:

    Maybe there is something in between :)

  3. Between what? Between a process where we apply learning and one where we ignore it?

  4. Bob Marshall says:

    Try explaining Newtonian Physics in terms of Quantum interactions, or vice versa, and the same chaos/insanity ensues. Fundamentally different mindsets do not correlate. Period.

    – Bob

  5. Isn’t the analogy more like Aristotelian physics vs Newtonian physics? Waterfall and agile talk about the same phenomena, but has different theories about what’s true.

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