Waterfall Project Management vs. Agile “Project Management”

Let’s settle this right here, right now. Should you use Waterfall (Predictive) Project Management or Agile “Project Management” for your next project? What about “Hybrid”? It’s a common question to ask, with a very simple answer:

If your project has a defined cost, a defined schedule, and defined end state (scope) it is Waterfall. Full Stop.

No need to muddy the waters. You can’t just sprinkle Agile methodologies in the project plan and think that you’re going to get exactly what you asked for (scope), for a defined cost, when you want it (schedule). By definition, Agile has a flexible scope with a fixed cost and schedule. In Waterfall, all three are fixed (until a change is requested).

Can you have iteration in Waterfall? Absolutely! Can you have project scope changes on a monthly basis? Absolutely! Can you use terminology like “sprints” and “stand-ups? Yup! But it’s not Agile.

Agile is used to iteratively develop a product, and while you may use iterations to achieve a desired outcome…if that outcome (scope) is due by a certain date (schedule), and can only cost so much, it is Waterfall.

Here’s a simple distinction: Agile is Iterative Product Development, Waterfall is Project Management. You can develop a product with Agile, but you cannot manage a project with it. (Despite PMI’s recent efforts to absorb Agile into project management)

If your team uses Agile methodologies and has project managers in charge of them…run. Run away. Your PMO has committed the cardinal sin of project management and has fleeced the organization into thinking you can bend the iron triangle (scope, cost, schedule).

Pick one or the other. You can’t have both. Well, you can have both, but it’s usually asking for disappointed stakeholders and a confused team.

P.S. If you want a no-fluff breakdown of the most important parts of Project Management explained in simple terms, check out my free eBook on Gumroad.

P.P.S This is day 9 of 30 in my challenge to write every day for 30 days. Thanks for stopping by!

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