scrum vs. waterfall

ever heard of the scrum and waterfall product development strategies?  they aren’t new, but what’s cool is what happens when you take them out of context.  there’s also a reward for you (i.e., an embarrassing story about me) at the end. 

first, definitions.  scrum is a rugby formation that aims to move the ball down the field.  they stick together and collaborate.  and waterfall is just a waterfall. 

rugby team X is crushing it by moving the ball (magenta circle) down the field.  

rugby team X is crushing it by moving the ball (magenta circle) down the field.  

the scrum method is small teams working in “sprints,” or 1- to several-week-long sessions of software development.   these are some scrum characteristics:

  • daily check-ins
  • high-priority items only
  • various iterations/versions produced
  • broken into smaller parts
  • cyclical
  • adaptive
  • assumes there are unknown/as yet unknowable aspects
this is a waterfall doing its thing.  the lettuce just happened to be growing nearby.

this is a waterfall doing its thing.  the lettuce just happened to be growing nearby.

meanwhile, the waterfall method, as its name suggests, goes one way only.   there’s no going back once the plan is set in motion.  here are other traits:

  • sequential
  • static
  • assuming all variables are already known
  • predictive
  • inflexible
  • one finished product
  • one phase at a time

i’m short-changing them here because my point is the imagery.   it's a helpful way to view how to move toward goals. 

for example, what if you moved toward big goals in short, concentrated increments, and evaluated your progress daily? and at bi-weekly reviews considered alternatives based on your continuous feedback?  how much could you accomplish? 

but are you willing to back up and address problems and change course, or are you set on your initial plan?  and does you keeping your head down, plodding along the path someone told you would work and hoping it does once you get to the end sound more like you?

some takeaways for adding scrum methods to your goal achievement:

  • break big goals into incremental ones
  • group smaller goals into weekly bundles
  • sub-divide weekly bundles into daily tasks
  • do the daily tasks
  • review progress daily
  • evaluate overall progress each week
  • be willing to change course
  • actually do all of this

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i learned about the scrum and waterfall methods a couple months ago on a date with a video game developer, who uses scrums at work.  we, or at least i, had a great time and he walked me to my car.  we hugged goodbye but our faces were close and i thought, “oh, it’s kiss time.  i am ready.”  so i kissed him.  but it quickly became VERY clear i was the only one kissing.  thank god my car was right there,  otherwise i would’ve broken into one just to have a hiding place. 

we both handled it ok and in 15 years of dating this is the worst that’s happened.  that's not such a bad track record, right?  overall, the story has two clear upsides:  i was able to laugh at myself the whole ride home and it gave me this post.