Skip to main content

How do you improve the waterfall with Scrum or Agile?

Many Project Managers come to my courses to find out whether Scrum and Agile are something for them and their for organizations. Sometimes the answer regarding Scrum is 'No.' What then? What can you do with the lessons of Scrum to improve your productivity if you're constrained to phase driven development? This is where the values of the Agile Manifesto can be really helpful!

Yvonne Horst, a Project Leader for Swisscom and recent CSM, just sent me a nice example (she also sent a nice recommendation for my course, but I digress):
"I would like to point out one idea. The usual staffing approach for projects in a non-Scrum environment is to send specialists into a project and have them produce the artifacts of the respective phase. At the end of the phase the artifacts are handed over to the next group of specialists, which makes it sometimes extremely difficult to ensure the know-how transfer over the whole lifespan of the project.

"The idea of the Scrum team with all necessary skills on board to solve whatever problem that may occur can be transferred into a waterfall team as well – if only by booking one or two key resources over the whole lifespan of the project.

"I want to go one step further now and am currently building a team of requirements engineering specialists, each and every one of them with in depth know-how of at least one core system. They will no longer be sent to projects, but the projects may in future obtain results from this team for their specific problem/changes/challenges/high level requirements with reference to the represented core systems. The team works and acts together.

"The first feedback from the business units as well as the Project Managers has been enthusiastic. And the team members tell me that they have learned more from their colleagues in the last two weeks than in the two years before…"
Here we have an example of applying both a Scrum practice and the Agile value, "People and Interactions". You can apply the Manifesto for Agile Software Development to any context. You do not have to do Scrum or XP to be Agile! Just value the "stuff on the left" more in your decision making:
  • Individuals and interactions
  • Working software
  • Customer collaboration
  • Responding to change
What are you already doing that values Individuals and Interactions or Working Software? What could you do more of (or less of) to emphasize these values? What could you start doing?

And Scrum itself can provide the inspiration for possible improvements. How could you apply timeboxing? How could you inspect and adapt more frequently on the basis of honest information?

I am sure there are other examples of applying Agile Values and Scrum Practices to traditional project management. I'd love to hear your suggestions and examples!


Scrum tool said…
Agile scrum has its own particular philosophy and working. It is unique as a framework. I guess if Agile practices and principles are implemented in a waterfall project, even on a marginal level, would waterfall remain as waterfall? Or, would be a pseudo version of Waterfall-Agile hybrid? The question would be to be really Agile or a “Scrumbut”?
Peter said…
Hi Scrum Tool,

I think you can be Agile without replacing you Gantt charts with a burn down chart. Start applying the Agile values. What do we do now that values, say, working software over extensive documentation? What could we change, so that we can become more aligned with valuing working software? It's a small steps approach.

I think in this case, the big mindshift is saying, we want to get better, so let's look for better ways of developing software.


Popular posts from this blog

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

Explaining Story Points to Management

During the February Scrum Breakfast in Zurich, the question arised, "How do I explain Story Points to Management?" A good question, and in all honesty, developers can be an even more critical audience than managers.

Traditional estimates attempt to answer the question, "how long will it take to develop X?" I could ask you a similar question, "How long does it take to get the nearest train station?

The answer, measured in time, depends on two things, the distance and the speed. Depending on whether I plan to go by car, by foot, by bicycle or (my personal favorite for short distances) trottinette, the answer can vary dramatically. So it is with software development. The productivity of a developer can vary dramatically, both as a function of innate ability and whether the task at hand plays to his strong points, so the time to produce a piece of software can vary dramatically. But the complexity of the problem doesn't depend on the person solving it, just …

Money for Nothing, Changes for Free

“Money for Nothing, Changes for Free” encourages both customers and suppliers to focus on value.

A key advantage of Scrum projects is that at least once per sprint you have something that could be shipped and no work in progress. You can change direction every sprint, and you can reevaluate whether the project is a good investment or if your money could be better spent elsewhere. Abrupt cancellation is risky for the supplier.

While the concept of an early-exit penalty is not new, Jeff Sutherland gave it a unique allure with his allusion to the Dire Straits hit.
Desired Benefit Incentivize both customers and suppliers to focus on functionality that provides genuine value.
Structure This works with Agile software projects because there is little or no work in progress. After each Sprint, functionality is either complete or not started. Work is basically on a Time and Materials basis with a cost target, often with the intention that the project should not use up the entire project budge…