Overheard at the Project Management Café.
Jim sets down his cup and says, “I’ve been hearing a lot about Agile, so, what is the difference between Agile and Waterfall? In fact, what the heck is Waterfall?”
Stacy puts down her sandwich, “The black-and-white answer is this: With the Waterfall style, you plan the project upfront, each milestone, each task, and have the entire plan in front of you. With Agile you plan the project, but you approach it with the attitude that change is inevitable, useful, and welcome.”
Bob replies, “Agile accepts the fact that you cannot plan everything up front, so you need to deal with challenges as they come.”
Jim, “Sounds like simple old fashioned project management to me. ‘Don’t get too set in your ways, stuff happens’”.
Bob, “That attitude works well no matter what methodology. Agile has other aspects, the teams are more self-managed. They have regular ‘retrospective’ meetings during the project to ask ‘What went wrong’, instead of a single one at the end. There’s more, but the main difference is really in attitude. With waterfall the team directed by one manager. Agile teams are self-directed, the manager is more of a resource than an authority.”
Jim, “So, which is better? Which is the one to use?”
Bob, “Hey, Stacy, you’ve been an amateur photographer for a while now, you probably have a bit of gear by now. Which is the right lens to use?”
Stacy, “Well, it depends. If I’m taking nature photos I pack one or two, but for people I prefer…”
Jim, “Hey, I see your point, there is no right lens to use.”
Stacy, “Sure, Agile, Waterfall, a bit of a blend, it all depends on the circumstances that the project manager finds ‘on the ground’”.
Bob, “When I have a very inexperienced team, or a new offshore team that we have not built a rapport with, I am more directive, I end up using more of a Waterfall approach. If the team is highly experienced and used Agile before, you know ‘Not their first rodeo’, I use a heavy Agile approach. For that team, I can do less managing, mainly be the resource that clears roadblocks and run interference for them. That lets me focus more on my other projects and teams.”
Stacy adds, “Actually, there are more nuances than just that. There are varieties and mixtures of both. Different versions of Agile. Different ways to implement Waterfall, even hybrids of both.”
Jim finished his cup, “Ok, so it really is a case of choosing the best options, based on the team, the project, and what the PM and team work with best.”