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Waterfall vs Agile: The Big Principle at Stake | Video

Waterfall vs Agile: The Big Principle at Stake | Video

If you are subscribed to a few Project Management feeds, blogs, or YT channels (like this one), you’re probably seeing it too… I am talking about the constant flow of ‘Waterfall vs Agile’ arguments.

They usually go like one of these:

  • Agile is so much better than Waterfall because…
  • Waterfall is outdated compared to Agile because…

Where do I stand on the Agile versus Waterfall debate?

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Where do I stand on the Agile versus Waterfall debate?

Well, the answer is clear: ‘to one side’. I refuse to get drawn into it.

Always be suspicious of ‘either/or’ and ‘A versus B’ arguments

Unless, of course, you’re shopping on a tight budget.

These kinds of arguments imply a moral choice or (stronger still) an absolute right-wrong distinction.

Have you ever read a really good novel, or seen a truly great movie, or watched a fantastic TV drama series?

One thing you’ll notice that lifts all these above cheap novels, B movies, and trash TV is complexity. The plots and characters reveal that there are no easy answers nor clear distinctions between right and wrong. Even the Jedi do bad things.

They appeal to us because we recognize the truth in the situations. Simple right and wrong distinctions only ever apply in the simplest of situations.

Projects are Complex

They are not simple.

So what on Earth makes some people think that easy right/wrong choices about big issues will characterize project management?

The binary distinction between Agile and Waterfall is bogus

There is no right and wrong here. The most you can hope for is good and poor. Usually, the best you’ll get is ‘okay and a bit better’.

So what does this mean about the fake binary divide between Agile and Waterfall?

Simply stop applying it. They are two ends of a spectrum of ideas about how to approach a project. Indeed, in the hands of some writers, they are cartoonish extremes.

But if you are serious about Project Management, it’s time to take a serious approach to the debate. Avoid yes-no, right-wrong, this-that arguments about anything. Look deeply at the situation and ask:

‘what is its character and, therefore, what does it need?’

Be Broad in Your Approach

Draw from Agile, Waterfall, Change Management, Operations, Services… Call on anything and everything in your experience to design the right solution to get the job done.

And if you ever hear a trenchant argument that sounds like ‘this-not-that’, look for ways to reframe it as ‘this and that’.

Carefully curated video recommendations for you:

And a super-valuable article for you will be:

Agile vs Waterfall: Which one is Right for Your Project?

What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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