Is agile always better?


Sensemaking in the Agile Forest


By Henny Portman

The Netherlands


We must use Agile, because the neighbors or one of our competitors use it too! This is a commonly used strategy, which just as often leads to failed transformations. When we develop an app iteratively and incrementally together with users, an agile working method offers many advantages. And in that situation, we sometimes must take a step back if we do not like the functionality delivered. We take that for granted. But will we also take it as easy when we build a nuclear power plant? After delivery, will we also say: ‘Sorry, mistake, let’s take a step back’?

In short, is Agile always better? The Standish Group, an American organization, has been publishing the CHAOS report for decades, which includes key figures on some 100,000 projects. The latest CHAOS report, published in 2020, states that only 44% of agile projects are successful. For waterfall, the figures are even more dramatic. These results underline the fact that blindly opting for an Agile approach does not always lead to the desired success: “Agile is not a silver bullet“.

In a blog When to Use Waterfall vs. Agile, written by Tim Parsons[1], I found some key factors to support you in your choice.

When to use waterfall vs. agile key factors

Looking at time and budget, agile also offers possibilities to stick to a fixed budget and timeline. The principle of maximizing the amount of work that is not done offers the possibility of steering to a fixed budget and end date by delivering only the most important things (MoSCoW prioritization[2]). If you are using permanent agile teams to develop and maintain a product you could argue is a waterfall approach is the best way to move forward when enhancing an existing product. Conclusion, it is not that simple to make a choice between waterfall and agile.

A different way to make your choice is the usage of the Stacey matrix as developed by Professor Ralph Douglas Stacey, to guide the choice for a certain framework.


To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series by Henny Portman, one of the world’s leading authorities on “agile”. Based in The Netherlands, Henny coined the term “agile forest” in 2019 to describe the many agile frameworks that have emerged over the last 20 years.  This series is intended to help readers better understand the agile concept, navigate through the ‘underbrush’ and more successfully apply whichever framework is selected for their projects.

How to cite this article: Portman, H. (2022).  Is agile always better? Sensemaking in the Agile Forest series, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue III, March. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/pmwj115-Mar2022-Portman-Is-Agile-always-better-sensemaking-series-3.pdf

About the Author

Henny Portman

The Netherlands


 Henny Portman, owner of Portman PM[O] Consultancy and was partner of HWP Consulting, has 40 years of experience in the project management domain. He was the project management office (PMO) thought leader within NN Group and responsible for the introduction and application of the PMO methodologies (portfolio, program, and project management) across Europe and Asia. He trains, coaches, and directs (senior) programme, project and portfolio managers and project sponsors at all levels, and has built several professional (PM(O)) communities.

Henny Portman is accredited in a variety of qualifications, including P3O, PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PRINCE2 Agile, AgilePM, AgilePgM and AgileSHIFT trainer and an SPC4 SAFe consultant and trainer. He is a P3M3 trainer and assessor and PMO Value Ring Certified Consultant (PMO Global Alliance). On behalf of IPMA, he assesses mega and large projects for the IPMA Project Excellence Award. In addition to this, he is an international speaker, author of many articles and books in the PM(O) field, and an active blogger (hennyportman.wordpress.com).

Henny can be contacted at henny.portman@gmail.com

To view other works by Henny Portman, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/henny-portman/

[1] https://www.macadamian.com/learn/when-to-use-waterfall-vs-agile/

[2] To be explained in one of the next articles in this series.