Agile versus Waterfall – A sign of ignorance?

Door Patrick Verheij

The Agile Manifesto was written way back in 2001. Since then we have learned a lot about agile. Many companies gained more agility. These and many more companies are still experimenting with the agile mindset, agile practices and agile frameworks. Nice!\r\n\r\nHowever…even in 2015 I still hear many people talk and write articles about “agile versus waterfall”. I believe that’s quite interesting because it is like comparing a grocery store to a water melon (you may pick your own favourite metaphore here).\r\n\r\n”Waterfall” usually refers to a typical process, usually a sequence of increasingly stressful phases which are  each executed by different specialists who hand over their outcome to each other. You know the drill by now, I guess.\r\n\r\n”Agile” is so much more than just process! It encompasses a whole mindset, a belief system, behaviour, specific objectives, a work context, complexity thinking, AND also processes.\r\n\r\nMost people actually mean “incremental development versus sequential development” when they talk about agile in relation to waterfall. Then why don’t they just say so?\r\n\r\nI find the agile vs waterfall comparision understandable from the perspective of a person who is new to agile. However when it comes from an ‘expert’, I find it short sighted and ignorant because quite often a few questions reveal that people who make such statements have not much interesting to say about agile.\r\n\r\nNext time you talk about agile in comparision to whatever we did before, be specific in what you mean. Furthermore, when people ask you to compare agile to waterfall, ask them what they mean. If they don’t have a clue why you bring that up, then educate them properly.\r\n\r\nWhen we wish agile to mature as a concept, then let’s be thoughtful about it. We must keep learning how to explain agile better, but we should avoid getting mixed up in confusing dialog caused by ignorance.\r\n\r\nA question I ask myself regularly: “what am I ignorant about when explaining agile?”\r\n\r\nQuite often this question helps me find new angles and make my stories stronger. And if it doesn’t, then other people will make sure I find out 🙂

Patrick Verheij

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