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Got your attention? Good. I’ll say it again: Waterfall is the perfect methodology.spring_hat_perfection

It attempts perfection from the outset. Perfect requirements, perfect design, perfect development and perfect delivery in a perfect world. If you live in that world where requirements don’t ever change, then you should probably use a waterfall type methodology for developing your software; and you should drop me a line (although they probably won’t let you have anything sharp like a pencil to write with there).

For most of us, life is imperfect. Our development consists of false-starts, unsure or uninvolved customers, unskilled development teams and even less skilled project managers. Sometimes it’s amazing we’re able to pull it off. Our lives are a constant magic show; hoping to pull the rabbit out of the hat just one more time, while the audience sits in amazement secretly hoping (on some sadistic level) we fail. For most of us, that’s our lives. Perhaps not all of those things all of the time, but at least one of those things in play at all times. So how can any waterfall-ish-type methodology hope to help us deal with all that strife? Easy, it can’t. The very purpose of agile-type software methodologies is to help us deal with that imperfection.

Now I cut my teeth on waterfall-style development. Every time a deadline would pass or a budget would be blown we blamed ourselves. We thought, “We failed to follow the methodology correctly. We should have done more (insert methodology step here).” Boom. Process inflation. Pretty soon, we were writing more paper documents than actual code, and we were convinced this was a good thing. Fifteen pages of documentation for a fifteen-line program, and two-weeks to deliver. Sounds horrible, right? But that’s where we lived.

This week I started my first (small) project where we are attempting a Kanban/lean approach. It was absolutely liberating. Although we had less-than-stellar customer interaction, we had a point of contact we could bug whenever we needed to. We had only two developers, but we were both committed to the lean ideology. We set our sites on as little process as possible, and whenever we were unsure about something, we took a 15 minutes to hash it out and make a first-stab decision. It was phenomenal. We put up our first MMF (Minimum Marketable Feature) and broke it out into simple tasks. We didn’t spend a lot of time on the tasks, because we left ourselves open to being able to add or scrap a task when we needed to. At any time, you could come by the project board and see what we were working on, what was next and what was left to do to get this MMF delivered. We also allowed ourselves to say, “Hey, this process sucks, let’s try something else.” We stepped on each other’s toes a little and we fixed it as soon as it happened, quickly and without dwelling on the problem.

I also let myself deliver less than optimal code for some things. They were things that I knew we’d need to touch again, but it didn’t violate the SOLID principles, and as we got more information, we could rework that section to include new information with minimal effort.

And the work just flowed. We coded like monkeys with our asses on fire, and it felt good. We will get feedback on Monday from the users and see what changes need to be made and deliver that MMF. Then, we’ll pull the next MMF from the list, and start working it. I look forward to sharing more as we learn more, but this last week has been one of the most enjoyable in a long time. Thanks Troy!


Posted on Saturday, April 18, 2009 6:53 AM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Waterfall Is The Perfect Methodology

# re: Waterfall Is The Perfect Methodology
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Thank you Lee.

It was one of the best I've worked on too. Amazing what happens when you stop trying to be good at methology and start trying to be good at delivering value to your customer!
Left by Troy Tuttle on Apr 19, 2009 10:54 PM

# re: Waterfall Is The Perfect Methodology
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Congratulations guys! Sounds like things are going pretty awesome
Left by Robz on Apr 23, 2009 10:41 PM

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