The number one problem with Waterfall.

Waterfall is a driver-less car circa 1930. You have a list of tick box items that check to ensure you have followed the process correctly. If you follow the process, your organisation will be safe from rogue projects and bad investments. It will protect you from risks on your IT Investment.

First thing I thought of when Uber announced they were going with driverless cars

And this is the number one problem with Waterfall. Passengers on the driver-less car can absolve themselves of responsibility for risk. They can blame the creators of the driver-less car if it fails because it encounters a context that wasn’t anticipated by its creators.

The alternative to the driver-less car is a normal car with a Instrument Panel, Steering Wheel, Cruise Control and a SatNav. One in which different people take responsibility for overlapping risks. The executive ensures the investment is going in the right direction and that it is effectively managing all risks. The executive is like the passenger trying to reach a destination. The product organisation are responsible for picking the right destination and the right route. The delivery organisation are the driver and the engineers who drive and look after the car. Each manages a set of risks that overlap. Each has responsibility… including the executives. In order to manage those risks, the organisation needs a framework to help them ensure they understand the risks, and appropriate processes and instrumentation to ensure the risks are visible and managed effectively.

Rather than rely on the framework to manage the risk on an IT Investment, an IT Risk Management Framework specifies the constraints that allow the risk on an IT Investment to be managed by the Operators, namely all the people involved, including the executives. As well as managing known risks, everyone is responsible for identifying new risks ( or risk leadership as I call it ). This allows the IT Investment eco-system to respond to shifting contexts and emergent risks.

The average “Scaled Agile” project is probably like a normal car without Instrument Panel, Steering Wheel, Cruise Control and a SatNav. Or rather bits but not the whole thing, and with a dodgy steering wheel.

So instead of relying on the creators of your Waterfall to provide you with a “circa 1930s driver-less car” to provide your risk management, opt for a top of the range vehicle with trained drivers, mechanics, logistics team and executive who can adapt to the context and risks that your organisation faces.

Renounce risk averse, and embrace risk management.

Footnote for Execs: During the second world war a study was performed to see which role was most stressful. It turned out the barrage balloon spotters had the most stressful role. This was because they could easily be killed by enemy pilots but they had no control over their situation. The average executive responsible for a Waterfall Project has the same level of control as the barrage balloon spotter because they are blind and can rarely identify opportunities to intervene in a timely manner. They are like a passenger in a car traveling at ninety miles an hour down a motorway with no steering wheel, instruments and a blacked out windscreen. The IT Risk Management Framework cleans the windscreen, and installs instrumentation and SatNav. More importantly the timeliness of the information arrival process provides them with options to intervene… they get a steering wheel.

Just like Arnold, its time to take control of your IT investment vehicles before Start Ups and Fintechs catch up with you.


About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

2 responses to “The number one problem with Waterfall.

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