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The manufacturer’s opinion on the paradigm of project management is polarized.

For years, no act of choosing blighted the landscape. Professionals traditionally leaned towards the waterfall model—a strict sequential approach to project management that doesn’t allow for unexpected changes or revisions. Then, it happened: the agile methodology took a stance against such restrictions and, justifiably or not, the manufacturer’s trademark approach to project management attracted a chorus of disapproval.

Author Teodora Gaici | Copperberg

Industry players didn’t get idled. In spite of its limitations, many professionals still prefer the linear-sequential model. Others avail themselves of the opportunity to shift towards an iterative practice—or, to be more precise, the agile method of managing projects.

Is it time to dismantle traditional fixed-scope projects and drive service innovation through agile planning?

It depends on who you ask.

Out of 100,000 individuals, 85.4% are actively using the agile methodology to keep their projects running smoothly; and that’s probably not a surprise. The traditional linear-phased approach surely has its shortcomings—it vehemently discourages changes in deliverables and gives rise to dependencies. Since each task is completed in an orderly sequence, several team members will remain inactive for an extended period of time—and this presumably has a knock-on effect on the project’s budget.

This, however, doesn’t mean that the widely-practiced agile methodology is the go-to framework that readily fits every scenario. If the agile adoption is ill-posed and an organization is resistant to change, many projects will get botched; and the results can be catastrophic. PMI states that “9.9% of every dollar is wasted due to poor project performance—that’s $99 million for every $1 billion invested.”

It is not too late to stem the tide and avoid the peril of inadequate project management. There are just a few choices to be made. A manufacturer may plow ahead through each imminent obstacle by implementing the agile methodology. When the circumstances warrant it, industry players can turn, on a dime, towards a familiar route—the tried-and-tested waterfall model. The question is, when should you prefer one over the other?

Under the Waterfall of Project Management Success

Nearly 50 years ago, the waterfall framework began setting the standard for project planning. Its origins lie in the manufacturing industry, “where changes after implementation are,” as experts proclaim, “prohibitively costly.”

As if on cue, the costs of the waterfall methodology have been widely debated—and it’s easy to see why. Although the modern-day manufacturing environment is noticeably dependent on a high level of service, this sector is generally regarded as a cost center. Now, add this to the mix: a strict project management approach that gives you no chance to pivot when your plans unexpectedly go awry.

It is not the best scenario; sunk costs certainly can’t—or more importantly, shouldn’t!—be ignored.

Manufacturers, however, aren’t necessarily making a deliberate mistake when gravitating towards the waterfall model. Although it’s particularly methodical, this methodology has its benefits—and the ability to conduct superior risk assessments is one of them.

When it comes to this linear-sequential life cycle model, there is no room for assumptions: everything is meticulously mapped out ahead of time and, in consequence, the manufacturer can easily:

  • Carry out a sufficiently-detailed risk assessment
  • Set up a quantifiable plan and track progress through clear milestones
  • Eliminate the guesswork around the project’s timeline and full scope

Another benefit of this framework is its straightforwardness. The phases do not overlap, each objective is concisely defined, and all the vital requirements around each project are presented upfront.

Inevitably, this paints a picture of certainty—one that may add to the manufacturer’s sense of control over project development.

Is it false hope or a real possibility?

It’s a justifiable reality. Everything will pan out nicely as long as the linear patterns of this formal methodology aren’t disrupted by uncontrolled change. So make no mistake; there is a place for the waterfall model in the manufacturer’s daily operations—especially when:

  • The project requirements are well-defined and, at the same time, aren’t subject to change
  • The project management team has a clear picture of the final product
  • The customer’s involvement in product development is limited

Notwithstanding its limitations, the traditional approach can yield great results for well-defined projects that are developed in a stable environment.

The Agile Manifesto Against Traditional Project Management

Many speculative claims around the waterfall model had the same reasoning: the inflexibility of this framework comes at a hefty price.

This blind spot didn’t drive the final nail in the waterfall paradigm’s coffin, but it spurred industry players into action. They needed an alternative that is adaptive to continual change—and one particular project management methodology had the ability to rise to the occasion: the agile model.

By contrast, agile projects promptly encourage changes in deliverables and support:

  • A leadership philosophy that promotes teamwork, self-organization, and accountability
  • Frequent product inspection and rapid delivery of high-quality projects
  • A business approach that aligns development with customer needs and enterprise-wide goals

Experts note that “more changes have occurred in [this industry segment] in the past 12 months than in the previous 12 years.” Traditional models can’t keep up with this rapid pace of change—not in the same way as the agile framework, at least.

Consequently, the dynamics of agile project management haven’t gone unnoticed. As we speak, many professionals are transforming their service through iterative management—and the results speak for themselves. After a multinational manufacturer embraced agile project management innovation, its production system easily adapted to immediate market demands and met customer requirements.

This proves that agile processes aren’t just a mere alternative; they’re a hallmark of long-term success and growth.

An iterative approach stimulates sustainable development and prioritizes customer satisfaction. It is a mindset that builds projects around self-organized people and aims to deliver continuous value with remarkable precision.

Sometimes, Each Choice Is Tentative

The opinion is divided as to whether manufacturers should keep investing in the formal project management methodology or not.

Each framework has its perks and its perils, but the plain fact is that professionals shouldn’t be leery of investing in either approach.

With a set of clear-cut goals at hand and sufficient expertise, any industry player can limit restrictive barriers and move towards project management excellence.

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