Agile Roadblocks: Drowned by Waterfalls


Agile RoadblockIn the series about agile roadblocks: obstructions for implementing agile processes, the time has come to “Drowned by Waterfalls”. (Read the previous post about stray team members as well.)

Often agile processes slowly make their way into larger organizations. Parts of management may not even be aware of any changes. Others may be too rooted in existing processes and methodologies. They consider any change an annoyance that will eventually go away if you just ignore it.

So, how do you apply an agile development process when drowned by waterfalls?


Development teams may be asked to use Scrum or other agile processes, although the customer and/or management uses traditional models or demand a fixed price contract.

Some argue, rightfully so, that you have to apply a methodology in full to achieve its full potential. Sometimes, however, you don’t have a choice.

While you will not be as successful applying agile, hopefully you can get some benefits from it. In any case, you have to relate to it somehow.


  • Resistance from managers to apply or recognize agile practices they are not familiar with, for example estimating in story points.
  • Mismatch between responsibilities of project managers, product owners and other key roles.
  • Failure to get the full effect from agile methods. Which, in a longer perspective, may lead to mistrust of agile development altogether.
  • Project managers may have difficulties when agile methods clash with traditional project management and processes.


  • A lot of agile principles are nothing more than common sense, and works well in traditional project models as well. For example daily stand-ups and estimation in size rather than calendar time.
  • The main reason why customers like fixed price contracts is that they think they know what they will get, and at what price. Try to offer them the same feeling of safety with other price models.
  • Make your case with management. Explain why you have to adopt all practices to be successful with agile development.
  • Get people on your team that have experience with Scrum/agile development.


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