Why is Waterfall Project Management so entrenched in organisations?

Waterfall Project Management is in my experience still very much the most prevalent method for project delivery in medium to large established organisations.  Management teaching and familiarity with this approach makes it very entrenched and “sticky”.  It is also a product of the business case development, and budget approval process where CFOs want to understand the why, what and how something will be delivered upfront.  This drives considerable front-end effort to clarify unknowns, traditional Project Lifecycle timescales, resources and scope.  Immediately, stakeholders anchor on these business case dimensions and will want regular “how are we doing” RAG reporting against these.  Some organisations will have compliance quality gates around the stages of the Project Lifecycle, with explicit entry and exit criteria and sign-off, often regulated by a PMO.  Standardisation of PM approach and associated templates and processes can often be mandated.  All these pressures pull you into the Waterfall Project Management delivery model, whether you like it or not.

Introducing Agile practices into these environments is real challenge. However, this is really where the Fast Waterfall Project Management model comes into its own. The model recognises that a “one size fits all” does not work, and it has a series of Lanes with associated “out of the box” delivery processes available.  The business case test has an element of pragmatism to decide which “Lane” and delivery model is best suited, to ensure the right fit, rapid development and delivery.  It also has the added advantage of business acceptance as it will fall in with much of what business stakeholders are familiar with.

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