The Waterfall Trap in Agile

The Waterfall Trap in Agile

Mostly, projects with an agile way of development start with agile training, knowledge, education and enthusiasm about agile. As the project progresses, the team goes through the maturity curve stages – which we call forming, storming, norming, and performing curve and starts delivering. Every scrum ceremony happens as ‘planned’, the product starts taking shape, and something happens during this time, which I am calling ‘The Waterfall Trap’.

Most of the teams which I have seen as they grow up, they move from Scrum (One or two teams) to Large scale scrum (More than two teams) or any other framework such as SAFe or NEXUS. These are just new frameworks to follow the agile way of working, but the basic agile principles remain the Same Everywhere.

As these teams grow, things start coming up such as milestones planning, release planning and deadlines, Story ‘Readiness’, or Backlog readiness, Getting the architecture ready, and so on. Sometimes even I heard that ‘User Story is not ready’ or team cannot start the development because the story is not frozen! When I listened to these terms, I start feeling that – team has started falling into ‘The Waterfall trap’

Agile vs Waterfall - Credits - Smartsheet - Google Images

The waterfall is an excellent method but had some advantages as well as disadvantages. In simple words, Requirements gathering, development, testing and maintenance happens one after another and does not go hand in hand. For example, Requirement capturing and documenting (FRD, BRD) goes for a month, then development starts. After the team finishes the development work, then testing starts and then maintenance happens.

Agile is NOT; making these steps just shorter – all four stages, one by one in the one sprint. Example – PO writes the complete story before the sprint, reviews it multiple times, ‘freeze’ the requirements, and then development starts in the sprint. Once the team completes development, then testing finishes in the same sprint and then work is reviewed. If the review is not as per the documented story, then either story is not marked as DONE or the team creates a bug in the backlog. If this is happening in our teams, then it is the time to go back and check for an agile way of working.

Whenever we go for agile training or agile reading –The first line will always be – Agile is the mindset. It is the mindset to learn, adapt and continuously improve to achieve the common goal. Embracing the change, and keep moving ahead with whatever information is available and then adapt as the things evolve is critical for agile. The ‘Scrum team’ sit together, collaborate and communicate frequently and sprints to achieve the sprint goal. Scrum master, product owner, and development team are part of the scrum team. If the development team faces any challenge in understanding the requirement, then the product owner clears the query or guides the team at the same time & development team members adopt accordingly. Product Owner and team are not separate things; they are the same team. & as sprint progress, your product evolves and takes shape. This encourages the team’s ownership, cross-functionality and motivation. Also, the team becomes self-dependent, & allowed to do whatever they need to achieve the sprint goal, so they can drive the ways they want to communicate and collaborate.

If the team is being forced to get a few things done by someone else, then, its time to go back to the basics and avoid the ‘Waterfall Trap in Agile’. 

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