“Waterfall Is Dead, #Agile Is The Only Way”​ – Fight Me

I think it’s time I admitted I need examples. Examples of “oh stop being fanatical, we must be measured in our approach, there are plenty of situations where the old ways of doing things have their rightful place”.

I ask what those are every time I am told I’m being silly with a condescension I’ve now come to associate with “the wise fragile-er” – who acts as if the rest of us who are preaching the one and only way are simply and innocently green and lacking the experience to recognise the need for both Agile and Waterfall. As if they are rolling their eyes out of being a deep connoisseur of nuances in the field whereas the rest of us simply sat up top the ivory tower of zero real-life application and preached an impossible reality.

No amount of credentials and demonstrating experience will work to damp the condescension of the big grand “it depends”. 

Every time I ask for a couple of examples of what it is that wouldn’t be best served by an #Agile mindset and I do so, not to demonstrate I’m right but because I am truly one of those people who enjoys big thinking pivots and I’d absolutely love to hear enough evidence to support this major of a turn. 

My thesis: “there is no place for sequential, waterfall-like thinking, an #Agile mindset is the only way to respond to this world of fast-paced customer demand and use technology” – their response a variation of: “that’s a gross generalisation, if you had enough “in the field” experience/if you understood our industry/our particular project/department/company or generally if you weren’t so brainwashed you’d know that there are plenty of cases where agile simply doesn’t work and a Prince certification is the only way to make things happen”. 

So I ask for any description of some of these cases. What are they? When is it that, irrespective of the process used and non-specific to the way in which one does the work in itself, having a flexible, resilient, people-first, fast-results-driven and feedback-addicted approach hurts. 

And in a sense, the clue is in this very formulation because ironically, when we put it this way, the answer is “every time”. 

If you were to have to do waterfall for whatever reason while your mind was wired in #Agile you’d find it extraordinarily painful. The mere perception of speed inbuilt in the mindset is impossible to replicate in any other way of work. The essential feedback loop that lets us build for the consumer in lieu of imaginary, artificial requirements would be absent. Your flexibility wasted, your ability to work as a magical team superfluous and your penchant for creating MVPs, useless. So indeed that wouldn’t work. There’s no going back. All there is is a no going there in the first place.

Which, in a sense, explains the resistance that illicit the response above. Because those who propagate it know, in their heart of hearts, that once they allow themselves to truly make the leap to this new way of thinking, being forced by circumstance or self-doubt to revert would be really difficult. 

I’ve seen others ask too. And fail to get answers so let me ask again: Please set me straight, give me one example of a successful waterfall project that would have been unachievable or even just poorly served by an #Agile way of thinking. Just a short description of the type of project and its waterfall methodology and then its successful result and the thesis on why it wouldn’t have worked had it been attempted any other way, would do. 

We all believe in “the exception makes the rule” and right now, when I think of having an #Agile mindset in lieu of the old ways of thinking I simply can’t think of exceptions and I’d like some, so this is your time to school me and the rest of us and translate those rolled eyes into challenging counter-examples and dialogue – at least one if not both parties should come out of it better off. 

Disclaimer: To me, the term “agile” is all-encompassing of the good and righteous way of doing it by the letter of the manifesto in the spirit that recognises it as a way of thinking and not a process. As such, making the distinction between “agile” and “DevOps”, between “agile” and “Agile” and between “agile and “agility” is only serving to muddy the waters so I’ve decided long ago to refer to it as “#Agile” to encompass all of the above, never the Way of Working but always the Way of Thinking.

I’ve often touched on the distinction and addressed the objections in these reportedly blood pressure raising pieces, and some of you may have read them in my blog or on Forbes but to have them handy to achieve faster indignation here they are again:

Agile By Heart Not By McKinsey PowerPoint

Questioning Agile

Agile: It’s Not Business, It’s Personal

Agile Isn’t Out, You Are

Agile Vs. DevOps – Who Cares?

You Can’t Have The WoW Without The WoT

No Best Practice In DevOps

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