Marcus Orochena

Keeping things simple

Agile vs Waterfall - The Road Trip Analogy


Over the years I've seen a lot of confusion around Waterfall and Agile approaches. I wanted to provide a high-level analogy to help people understand the difference.

Imagine you're planning a cross-country road trip with friends. You carefully select your destination, listing all the exciting places to stop and see. You map out the entire route, including where you'll sleep each night.

This is Waterfall.

Now, picture the same road trip, but this time, you only decide the first stop. Each morning, you and your friends discuss where to head next, based on what you enjoyed the day before and the new opportunities that arose. If everyone agrees they've had enough at any point, you end the trip and head home.

This is Agile.

The Waterfall approach is excellent when you know exactly what you want and how to get there. It works very well with a fixed budget and/or timeline. The Agile approach is great when you're unsure of what you want or want to discover new things along the way.

Mixing the two approaches is where things get messy and where most people go wrong. Understanding which method best fits your problem and sticking to it is essential. Agile is not a panacea and does not magically make your team more productive - it's a different way of working that can be more effective in certain situations.