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Project management

Agile vs. Waterfall: which manager are you?

Kaleigh Moore 7 min read
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Agile vs. Waterfall —- which is the best project management methodology?

This tough question doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. The answer may depend on your managing style and what you need out of a management approach.

Agile is lean and flexible with enough ambiguity to make changes to a project no matter how far along you are. Waterfall is crisp and structured, defining each step from start to finish. 

Choosing between Agile and Waterfall depends on your team and your project. Let’s walk through the details of each methodology and look at some guidelines to consider when choosing between the two. 

What are methodologies? 

A project management methodology is a system of processes that guide a project from start to finish.

Methodologies keep teams on track and set the ground rules for planning, starting, and working on a project. 

Methodologies come in all shapes and sizes — from detailed and rigid to light and flexible.

Agile and Waterfall are two popular methodologies you can use while working with a Work OS.

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What is Agile methodology?

The Agile methodology is a collaborative project management methodology that breaks down larger projects into small tasks that teams tackle collaboratively.

Agile values flexibility and cross-team collaboration, releasing teams from the step-by-step structure of linear methods to adapt a project as it progresses. 

Agile project management works in iterations or sprints. Each iteration is a small deliverable with a short deadline (usually 1-3 weeks) that a team focuses on and completes. The deliverable is then released into the world to receive feedback. The team takes whatever feedback it receives and adapts the project as it works through each sprint. 

What does the Agile process really mean?

Agile project management follows 12 principles that help teams satisfy their customers and keep their projects on track. 

The Agile process looks like this:

What the agile process looks like

  1. Deliver working products frequently and consistently with customer satisfaction as the highest priority
  2. Embrace and adapt to changes that benefit the customer, no matter where you are in your project timeline
  3. Deliver smaller, working projects with a preference for a shorter timescale
  4. Collaborate throughout the entire process (between developers, managers, and stakeholders)
  5. Build projects around motivated people (provide support, trust, and the right environment)
  6. Have face-to-face (or virtual) conversations to pass information to the development team
  7. See the final working project to measure a project’s success
  8. Promote sustainable development by requiring everyone that touches a project to stay at a constant pace
  9. Consistently pay attention to good design
  10. Keep everything simple
  11. Self-organized teams create the best designs, requirements, and architectures 
  12. Teams should reflect on their progress and how they can become more productive, then adapt accordingly

What is the Waterfall method?

The Waterfall method has been around since 1970 when Dr. Winston Royce detailed it as a solution for large software development projects. The concept is based on the idea that projects are made up of steps that follow one after the other. When you put all your projects in order, it cascades down like a waterfall (hence the name). 

You’ll usually see the waterfall method broken down into five steps:

waterfall methodology stepsIn the Waterfall methodology, each step needs to be completed before moving on to the next.

This method tends to be more detailed and rigid, and it’s designed to keep teams moving from task to task without looking back. Sometimes, this can cause problems down the line if goals and tasks aren’t clear before starting. 

But waterfall project management is tried and true. It visualizes every step of a project in an easy-to-follow, logical way. 

When should you use Agile vs. Waterfall?

When it’s time to lay the foundation of a successful project you’ll have to put the two methodologies head-to-head. 

But when should you use Agile vs. Waterfall?

Here are some guidelines to consider before choosing one methodology over the other. 

When to use Agile

Agile is best suited for projects that don’t have a clearly defined scope and could run into roadblocks that require quick changes along the way. Agile is naturally iterative, adjusting based on feedback from customers and stakeholders throughout the project. It requires a team of self-starters that collaborate and adapt without missing a beat. 

When to use Waterfall

Waterfall is best suited for projects that have a clear and complete scope before the project starts. If you know every step a project will have to go through to complete it and know the risk of scope change is low, the waterfall method becomes an incredibly efficient way to see a project through to the finish line. It requires a team where each member understands their role and meets all requirements before moving on to the next stage of development. 

How to use Agile with

agile template

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Agile and are a match made in heaven: You can build flexible task lists to organize everything that needs to happen in one place, then assign each task an owner and priority level. 

As you plan each one to three-week sprint, you can move the tasks you want to prioritize to a new sprint board and assign owners to each item. Having a separate board for each sprint allows the people working on those particular tasks to collaborate and see how much progress is taking place. Your goal is to turn everything in your sprint board green by the end of your sprint. Once you finish, move the sprint to the bottom of your project and set up your next iteration. 

To make the process easy for you, we’ve built several templates you can use in your account. 

How to use Waterfall with

Running a Waterfall project with is just as easy.

Start by setting up groups for each step in the Waterfall method and then add in your tasks. Assign each task to a team member and set a due date and status. When you’re ready to set up your waterfall, you can use the Timeline to visualize the time frame for each task and task group so you know all your pieces are in the right order. You can also set up milestones and task dependencies to make sure everyone is aligned and on track. 

Your goal for a Waterfall project is to turn every task green in (in order) on the timeline until you reach the finish line.

Agile vs. Waterfall: Pick the methodology that’s right for your project

Deciding between Agile and Waterfall doesn’t have to be a difficult decision. Armed with’s adaptable project management platform, you can select and deploy the project management method that helps you accomplish your objectives. 

Get your Agile methodology template:

Agile methodology template

Kaleigh is an experienced writer on all things SAAS at She is a Forbes + Vogue Business retail contributor on her free time.
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