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WWWA – #2 Harsh critics of Agile or Waterfall (or Bacon) are Awful Researchers

WWWA = What’s Wrong With Agile

I know, I said it will be weekly. As it turned out, I actually prefer responding to change over following a plan. A quick recap to the goal of this series, which will stay same on every following article – to make some space in our brain for this to stay in:

 

#1 – Agile is widespread, the Agile Manifesto isn’t

#2 – Harsh critics of Waterfall or Agile (or Bacon) are Awful Researchers

Criticism with opinions is a no-brainer. Although, Criticism with facts require investment of quality time, uncomfortable debates leading to self assessment and the will to learn from the one being criticised by us. In this article, I will take a U-turn to explain a misconception which many of us don’t know exists. We have other follow up articles to get back the respect Agile needs but we have only this article to finally respect “Waterfall” or what it stands for. As always, keep an open mind.

Overly Favourable Views

“People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains… …this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden… …people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.”

Highlight of the abstract of a published whitepaper – the basis of a Nobel awarded (for Psychology) to David Dunning and Justin Kruger.

This is true for both Agile admirers and haters. Both are guilty to some extent. I was too, certain years back. With no actual working experience of “Waterfall” and what it involves, it didn’t made sense to me and simply hated it to the core. Statements were made which were heavily biased towards Agile/Lean.

Then, almost like a Karma (if you believe in that shit), I had to work in a Waterfall project! It was really awkward to realise what was wrong. With an Agile goggle on it was my approach that needed an upgrade, I wasn’t listening to the so called old mindsets.

Trust me, if we could we would. The amount of dependency and politics we deal with, be thankful it’s not taking a year” – whispered a devil’s advocate.

 

Being used to the XP practices, it took me a while to digest and understand. I kept working in their sluggish pace to provide a value in a quarterly basis which was better than it used to be. Soon it was clear why agility makes sense and thankfully found the mojo back to move on with the experience. It wasn’t the mindset, it was simply the organisation we were dealing with. It made me come to this conclusion –

Mini-waterfalls within a fake sprint on a No-Scrum, sometimes still work. That’s the most we can get out of from certain organisations.

Not ideal but not the worst possible outcome. Now I can say, the traditional mindset/techniques (not specifically Waterfall – more in a moment) lacks the solution to provide values when we need it in today’s world, although don’t hate it anymore.

A brief history lesson to the Waterfall haters

You are about to be amazed if you haven’t really gone deeper into the subject of what Waterfall stands for and why you should – for a moment – take your Agile goggles off to read this.

The term “Waterfall” was an accident. A mere resemblance between a flow diagram and a waterfall. It was originally drawn to explain an iterative and incremental approach.

 

Yeah, you read that right – “an iterative and incremental approach”. One of the pioneer’s of the software development industry Winston W. Royce one day decided to write a paper on 1970 to express his “personal views about managing large software developments” while calling it “Managing the development of large software systems” – without a single mention of “Waterfall”. He managed to draw some visuals expressing his views, one of which is this:

 

Royce advocated that, projects should pass through this at least twice. That’s an iteration described right there, although not perfect for our current world but good enough for the world then. Bell, Thomas E., and T. A. Thayer on 1976 then published their paper on “Software requirements: Are they really a problem?” and coined the term “waterfall” referencing Royce’s article – managed to do the permanent damage, unintentionally.

 

We know the rest. That analogy turned into a topic of mindless criticism which was simply about “an iterative and incremental approach”. In a way, therefore, the concept of “Agile” has evolved from “Waterfall”. I hear you mumbling something, please don’t hate the messenger.

So, the term did more harm than good and may be that’s where “Agile” is heading which we can stop. “Waterfall” has become a word which is now spoken with a guilt; usually an enormous amount of shame is associated with it. Ehm.. “people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden”. I rest my case.

 

Sounded like a Waterfall lover there didn’t I? Truth is Waterfall (or whatever you like to call it) is still used widely although Agile is the better among the two. Just make sure we understand both before we criticise any of them. Better, just leave the debate behind, it’s not worth it. Respect both, embrace the one that suits you at that moment of time. Be loyal to the one you favour and explore yourself if you can improve.

Technically Waterfall was 20 years old when Scrum was born (1996) which is the most widely used Agile Framework. It’s been over 20 years to that as well.. you never know what’s in the corner waiting to emerge for us. Most probably another framework which offers even more faster feedback 😉

P.S: You may have gathered, this article had nothing to do with Bacon. Although it was about the Beacon.

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