Partially Waterfall & Agile Project Management " The Painful Gray Zone"


copyright: The Project 365 Group

There is no doubt the Waterfall methodology, originally defined by Winston W. Royce (Google Q&A) in the 1970's made its mark on software development. Since its invention a good amount of tuning has taken place to even enhance the methodology because even today, great projects are still being completed using that method.


However, over the last 8 to 10 years, I've seen a change take place in the world of managing software development projects, and its one that did not particularly enhance the traditional waterfall methodology but actually replaced it.


Welcome to the world of Agile! A unique way to manage projects created by a group of software developers and continuously being perfected by other development experts around the world. I don't want to get into naming any particular group, because based on who you've learned it from, there are some minor differences on who started what and how to do what. One thing I can say is that "Agile is here to stay" at least until something better comes along.


One of the challenges that happen new process innovations debut in any industry, is the fact that not everyone is hurriedly running to overhaul their organization, but there is a lot of momentum in the industry for technology companies, to get there as soon as possible. This rush to understand and the urge to benefit from how to improve project outcomes, has also created "The Painful Gray Zone" (coined by me Christopher Parish, illustrated in the diagram above) where one method stops and another starts, due to the fact that some companies use a mixture of both Waterfall and Agile.


The main reason this happens based upon my research working projects either as a Project Manager or Business Analyst, is due to the fact that many organizations are not willing to let go of their traditional ways or running projects, especially if it still works!

This creates a phenomenal area I've coined the " The Painful Gray Zone" , a subjective area that identifies where the Waterfall Method tries to tie its deliverables, objectives, artifacts, and resources to Agile events.


The pain word is used to describe the struggle of the project management teams to use both Waterfall and Agile. Before I go any further let me explain to you the meaning of the teams to ensure we are of the same understanding. The project management team is the group of project individuals designated to manage the project initiatives through out an organizations. these project managers are normally designated and assigned various projects by a Project Management Offices (PMO) or Project Management Department in most organizations. In a few of the organizations, neither of these existed and projects were directly assigned to functional managers in those organizations. In the majority of those cases, a technical manager of some sort was also assigned to the project to handle any technical jargon translations that may come up during the project.


Another term that I am referring to is the project team, this is the team that is responsible for actually completing the deliverables of the project. The group is often made up of the Project Manager, Business Analyst, Developers and Testers.


The "Painful Grey Zone" is stumbled upon when organizations that have operated in some type of waterfall fashion, attempt to pick and choose where to use their flavor of agile. This often occurs above the Project Level where the Program and Portfolio activities are demanded to be in waterfall where projects are managed by dates and then organizations create Scrum and Agile teams that are also driven by dates. In an example below, Brenton Conveyor Belt company supplies parts to its conveyor belt customers around the world. Brenton has decided to place their part supply company online and provide services to its B2B customers 24hours a day. In this example, the project manager has built a high level project timeline of what is going to be delivered and when it will be delivered.

Example: High Level Project Timeline

From a high level there is nothing wrong with this illustration, however the problems occur when that same project manager, applies the same guidelines to the project team which the organization has decided will operate in a scrum / agile fashion.


Unskilled project managers assume the project manager role, morph themselves into the scrum master role and proceed to drive the team to produce the deliverable by the dates in the project plan. Which in turn produces sub-par results, added confusion, and normally leads to burn out of the delivery team producers, which consequently delays the project because everyone is expecting everything by a specific date.


The intent of this was to give you an example fo the "Painful Gray Zone" of projects that are partially done in waterfall and agile. The illustration alone can be the starting point of over 50 to 60 more pain points that I can derive from its conception, however that would in return mean writing an entire book.


If your organization is operating in the "Painful Gray Zone", and you are seeking a project professional to help you bridge the gap, don't hesitate to reach out to me ( Christopher Parish ) or one our project professionals at the Project 365 Group, for project assistance. No matter where the challenge is, The Project 365 Group consultants, can keep your project generating value for your organization.






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