Waterfall v Agile

Last week I published a blog about the Project Management process. It was based on a Traditional or Waterfall approach to Project Management. I thought that I should point out that other Project Management approaches are available. Principally Agile Project Management. So which is better in the Waterfall v Agile contest?

The correct title for this blog (although less search engine friendly!) should be Adaptive v Predictive Project Management.

Predictive Project management

So what is Predictive Project Management? This is known by many names:

  • Traditional Project Management
  • Waterfall Project Management
  • Plan driven Project Management
  • Predictable Project Management

This sort of Project Management is perfect for those projects that have been done several times before. Product replacements, construction projects, etc.

In particular, Runner and Repeater (but not stranger ) projects. These are where nearly all of the tasks are known, the estimates are known to be accurate, and the risks are known.

In predictive Project Management the plans can be completed at the start of the project. These plans are then followed. Changes need to be managed as they will disrupt these carefully prepared plan.

I have covered many of the Traditional Project Management tools in my blogs.

Adaptive Project Management

So what is Adaptive Project Management? Again, there are several names for this:

  • Iterative Project Management
  • Agile Project Management

Projects that are unknown, Strangers, or projects which use new technology are perfect for this approach. With this type of project you need to be prepared and ready to respond to changes.

There are many unknowns about these projects. Therefore, preparing full plans could be a waste of time. Perhaps there is high VUCA, or the company has a fast changing and evolving strategy.

Changes are welcomed leading to adaption of the plans. A change is a customer request, and implementing that change request will keep the customer happy.

Some of the tools of Adaptive Project Management are:

  • Backlogs, Story Boards or Feature Lists
  • Burndown Charts
  • MoSCoW prioritisation technique
  • Planning Poker
  • Sprints, Scrums, and Showcases
  • Daily Stand-Up Meetings

These tools help break a project into mini-phases, and encourage regular dialogue and customer engagement. This is especially useful when the end product is unknown.

Hybrid Project Management

So what is hybrid Project Management?

Basically, a combination of Predictive and Adaptive Project Management.

Complex projects, with many stakeholders may need a Hybrid approach. A large traditional project plan could be broken down into several smaller project phases. That way changes and adaptions to the later phases are expected and welcomed.

There are some tools of Adaptive Project Management that can be applied to Predictive or Traditional Project Management.

MoSCoW could be used to help define the scope. Agile tools such as Showcases can keep stakeholders engaged. Burndown charts are a visual way of showing progress. A closer focus on the customer requirements, and expecting (and implementing) change requests.

This is employing a more adaptive approach to Traditional Project Management. A Hybrid approach.


The Agile Manifesto encourages a focus on individual interactions and a customer focus. Ensuring that we do this (even with a traditional plan) is partly to adopt a hybrid approach.

People deliver projects, plans help. This has always been my mantra in teaching Project Management. A focus on People is part of the Agile Manifesto, so I have always encouraged a (mild) hybrid approach to planning.

Posted On: 22nd September 2020

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