Sequential vs agile project management

Historical context of agile

-First formal project management methods occur in industrialization period(typically “material” oriented sectors such as construction, Mechanical Engineering, Agriculture). It was a sequence project management and for this type of industry is still the best way of project management in the present(example sequencing methodologies PRINCE2, PMI).
-Gradually started growth of automation and informatization when manual labor began to be automated. For this type of knowledge-oriented projects naturally began to take best practices and methods from management of industrial projects driven by sequential project management, while ignore the differences in those areas.
-It will continue upward trend of automation, plus rising Artificial Intelligence replacing not only industrial areas but also knowledge-based tasks. It will rise demand for management of knowledge-oriented tasks, and jobs creating automated intelligent solutions, therefore the importance of agile approach will continue.

The main differences between agile and sequence project management

Industrially oriented projects may be relatively well imagine, plan and implement, don’t have so a lot changes compare to the knowledge-oriented projects. And moreover sequential process (plan, do, check, act) is natural for human brain, people uses it in everyday life.

However, the main differences between the management of industrial projects and knowledge projects are in degrees of complexity, degree of uncertainty and therefore number of changes. These three key differences have completely different requirements for management and are also empirically proven failing large amount of IT projects driven by sequential project management.

Sequence management works in areas where it’s possible to do relatively good reliable plans, where it’s the relatively lower degree of complexity, uncertainty, need for changes in compare to other areas (eg. Knowledge-oriented) where complexity and uncertainty, the relatively high number of changes.
– Complexity and uncertainty: a high degree of complexity and uncertainty needs creative intelligent people, who have specific requirements for management(more in change management).
– Changes: emphasis on change management is one of the cornerstones of agile. On the contrary, the changes are not among the basic pillars of a priority in sequence management. Changes in sequential project management are mostly controlled only at the level of changes in the contract (contract change management), while agile adapt all management changes. Agile is suitable if:
1.customer knows what he wants but doesn’t know detailed description of requirement at present(or most often a customer can only think that it knows)
2.customer knows what he wants but external environment may upredictably change (even from one day to another there may be unexpected events).

Is it waterfall dead for project management of knowledge oriented tasks?

Many people on agile vs waterfall seen as a good vs evil and I do not think it’s a sensible view.
From my experience waterfall also has its uses in certain cases also at present mainly for tasks that can be planned in detail with really high degree of uncertainty. Typically waterfall can be right in subcontracting for technical features(in the case where 100% know the exact description of functionality), without UI, for a short time (within a few weeks) or task realized in one sprint iteration. In principle (1-2 week) sprint is similar to a waterfall project because there shouldn’t be high amount changes during sprint(eg. scrum is more restrictive and prohibits any changes in tasks done during the sprint, the kanban is more benevolent for that rule).


marek malý

Like helping people, Business & IT, research & innovations, nature, travelling, sports(bike, mountaineering, ..)

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