The misconception of the waterfall

In my opinion the analogy with the waterfall and SCRUM or agile methodologies is misleading. I asw too many „agile“ projects, where the agile heads did not fully understood the basic agile concept.

Very often agile is compared to traditionally project management termed as the waterfall method. The idea of such a waterfall project is, that project progress is build within phases, where each phase builds upon the previous.

So here comes the self named agile manager, reads about agile, and understands the problem of the waterfall as follows:

  • big phases which are depending on each other are bad
  • if we a make little waterfalls all is fine

Because that what agile methodologies looks like, right? We do have small increments (sprints in SCRUM). So that we do not have so much waiting up to one phase is over. We might even do phases in parallel.

Or, we build after each phase a loop, so that the phase can be run again in case we are not happy.

Ok, so easy. You do your SCRUM, and once you finish, we do our user acceptance testing, and create our training material, and when something is not working our answer is: that’s how we do it on the agile way.

In my opinion this waterfall picture is wrong. We should not use it anymore. We should focus on long vs short term planning. On test once or inspect vs test all the time. On see how it is going when it is finished vs constantly inspect and adapt. On the user will see it at the end vs transparency and user involvement throughout the whole project life.

SCRUM and agile thinking is much more than smaller waterfalls adding up.