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How Not To Worry About Agile vs Waterfall

Everybody’s Agile.

Why do you want to be Agile? Because it’s the cool, new thing right!?

Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but Agile is not new.

Agile is now a problem for most companies on all scales. Don’t take my word for it, just ask them. However, before Agile came along previously Waterfall was the problem. So is any project management methodology a waste of our time and how do we truly measure the success of a project?

Agile is over 20 years old. The Agile Manifesto came about because frustrated developers and project managers said “we can do this better, we can work together better”. It was also a reaction to the existing project management and software development practices. In those days projects would flow from stage to stage, requirements gathering, specification, design, development, testing – all of these were distinct.

Agile reacted to that Waterfall approach and said “We can and we should do everything in smaller chunks to validate our ideas more quickly”. The world agreed.

However what we have, 20 years later, is now exasperation from many stakeholders and product managers that they can’t get what they needed built by ‘doing Agile’. Likewise Agile has spread to not only software development but how infrastructure, product discovery, and all sorts of other projects are run in and outside IT.

So, the question is – should be abandon Agile and look for the next thing? Or should we work Waterfall?

I suggest something else. What about if we just keep working exactly the way we are working right now, but instead of worrying whether Agile or Waterfall or the Next Big Thing does it for us we do something else?

We actually pay attention to what is going on.

We use our eyes and our ears and our hearts to understand how our project is performing. We use tools and processes to support this but we don’t abdicate our responsibility to them.

The big problem with this is that it takes more effort. We have to be in the moment with our software projects, we have to stay on top of the issues and the developments and the progress. We have to be responsible personally for things that need to happen.

What happens then? You gain control.

What happens next? You get the software you want, when you want it.

And next? You get to plan more effectively and shorten your development loops.

So don’t worry about Agile vs Waterfall. Just pay attention. It will repay you.