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Real Life Experience, Waterfall

“This isn’t waterfall”

“This isn’t waterfall…but…”

How many of us have heard those words precede multiple eye chart process flow diagram slides?  I heard that statement the other day and many people simply don’t get what it means to be waterfall.  Many people point to an essay written by Winston Royce in 1970. Winston has the famous picture below that I snapped from the document direct.

Picture taken from "Managing the Development of Large Software System - Dr. Winston W. Royce"

Picture taken from “Managing the Development of Large Software System – Dr. Winston W. Royce”


However, that would be false, seeing how 9/10 of the essay talks bad about waterfall.  If you really want to know the pain of waterfall, look at DOD-STD-2167 standard by the defense department.

Header from DOD-STD-2167

Header from DOD-STD-2167

Title Page of DOD-STD-2167

Title Page of DOD-STD-2167

When you read these two documents, something is resoundingly clear, one process must finish before the next can start.  It is very serial, not parallel.   In it’s truest form, from a software perspective, QA can’t start until Dev is finished.  That is the quickest way to see if the agile culture is adopted or not, look at QA or Product Management.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • As a Product Owner, do I engage my delivery team when I am writing user story skeletons to help put the ‘meat on the bones’?
  • As a Software Engineer, do I invite QA to test on my local environment before I give them a build of code that won’t work anyway?
  • As a Quality Assurance Engineer, do I demand that the Product Owner sits next to me and looks at a user story I am testing so there aren’t bad surprises on demo day?
  • As an Agile Coach/Scrum Master, do I nudge the team and align them to see the ‘agile high performance tree’ with one of its roots being centered around openness… which thus includes collaboration and the removal of ‘my environment’ vs. ‘your environment’?

If you answer ‘no’ to many of these questions, there is a good chance you are waterfall, at least in culture let alone the eye chart.

In closing, if you have to start a presentation by defending slides saying “this isn’t waterfall”, there is a good chance it actually is waterfall.

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