If I asked you what does agile mean to you I’d get a range of answers from hard-core XP to approaches loosely based on Scrum.
If I asked you what does waterfall mean to you I’d get a range of answers from well-oiled staged processes to environments where formalism kills any productivity.
If I asked all of you who hasn’t heard that agile is better than waterfall because the latter simply delivers worse results in longer time I would hear the perfect silence.
Infamous waterfall is ideal background to sale agile. It’s enough to take one of these over-formalized or chaotic environments call them typical waterfall and show ideal agile case as an alternative. Barely anyone would object.
Does it mean agile is better than waterfall?
Well, depends on which agile and which waterfall you think about. These are such broad terms you can’t really compare them. What you can do is compare two very specific approach with all strings attached. Unfortunately this makes rather poor argument for big cool keynotes or sale pitches.
We should care less about specific methods and more about people in our teams. A team of great engineers following well-known (for them and for their client) waterfall-like process will produce better results than average team using the best agile approach you can think of working for client who doesn’t get and doesn’t want this whole agile thing.
When you consider which methodology you want to follow think which one would be the best for your team and for your client. Don’t believe these fancy presentations telling you how Scrum is great or how Kanban is great. Ask presenters why this or that worked in their case. Ask when they failed and why. Most of the time they won’t tell that unless you ask.
Different approaches work or fail because of people (both your and client’s team), not because of they are universally good or bad. Remember this next time you hear agile versus waterfall discussion.
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