Agile vs. Waterfall: Three Questions to Determine What Management Style is Best for Your Project


A project’s ultimate success can significantly be determined well before the work actually begins. Establishing an effective framework for roles, teamwork, planning and communication is crucial and can be the secret leading to that success. Generally speaking, projects are managed using either waterfall or agile methods and practices. Project types, contracts and organizational structures will determine which style will fit best. To decide which to use, ask yourself these three questions: 1. What type of project are you dealing with? This may seem like a basic question, but it will set up your project for the management style that’s necessary for success. Generally speaking, if your project deals with physical objects- construction project to a hardware installation project- then waterfall management may be the best option…but finding ways to apply agile principles in any situation is becoming commonplace. Waterfall styled projects need detailed planning of every task and phase, which must be completed in a specific sequence. If your project deals with service-oriented and non-physical deliverables, like codes, copywriting and design projects (specifically speaking), then agile management may be the best fit. Agile styled projects are more of a fast and flexible approach to management and are based on principles of collaboration, adaptability and continuous improvement. 2. What problems are you anticipating for your project? This is a question that you may not think about before starting your project, but again, it could be the key to your project’s success. For waterfall management, surprises are quite rare since the process is meticulously recorded in detail to improve future programs. (If your projects never have surprises, then waterfall might work out just fine for you!) However, because of the initial requirements, this platform does not allow the changing needs a client may have. On the other hand, agile management allows for quick course correction and empowers teams to work creatively and efficiently; it is not suited for projects with strictly defined requirements and scope. 3. What are your goals for your project? One major factor leading to any project’s success, is to determine your universal goal. Whether it is building a house for a construction project or developing code, it is important to recognize how you are going to reach this goal. Your teams must be able to complete this effectively and in a timely matter. In order to figure out what management style will work best for your project’s vision and goals, start by evaluating each of the agile manifesto values and principles and then determine whether or not they align with your organization’s/team’s values and dynamics.