Agile vs Waterfall vs Lean Startup : Who Cares About the Labels?


After reading Shane Hastie’s latest InfoQ article:  Lean Startup or Agile or Lean Startup and Agile?  it became clear how much we’re all getting caught up in labels and methodologies.  My thought:  let’s drop the flag waving, become pragmatic in our approach and recognize that context plays a crucial role here.   What works for Eric Ries and his start-up may not work for the company you work for and the project you’re currently executing.

The Real Value – Techniques & Tools

The value in methodologies like Agile, Scrum,  Lean Startup,  Waterfall and others is in the techniques and tools they bring to the table.  While they are each packaged with a neat title and some intelligent proponents; we don’t need to use these in a take it or leave it fashion.  Be pragmatic and assemble your own toolkit.  I’ll reference Scott Ambler and say “context matters“.  We all need to move towards a collection, library of project and product management patterns that can be adopted within certain contexts.


Lastly, what’s invigorating about these debates is that we’re growing as a field.  We’re rethinking our ideas, and not settling.  This can only be good for software development and those affected, infected by it.  Yes, I meant to say “infected”.  🙂


3 thoughts on “Agile vs Waterfall vs Lean Startup : Who Cares About the Labels?

  1. Excellent points! Context is often ignored. What works for me may not work for you. We need to establish context by asking targeted questions about the current situation. Then and only then, can we select tools and techniques to address the problems.

    We also need to accept that transitions from one development approach to another are hard. Interim approaches are usually needed to help guide the team toward the ultimate goal of being truly agile.

  2. I think we also need to consider the context of the outcome being sought, not just the problems that exist in the situation. These can lead us to develop better solutions for the different contexts. If speed is important, you will probably find a different solution to the one if productivity is a problem. There is still a lot of label wars going on because people think THE answer has been found, but there are so many different problems and situations which are all unique within any given marketplace or industry. Your post is absolutely right. Increasing value, improving the flow of value and advancing quality should be the primary aim of the people bringing new ideas to market regardless what methodology brand is chosen. I find it encouraging that our community is innovating to find solutions and develop new ways to advance the paradigm shift required for real agility. For a good starting point of the good thinking in the community go to

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