What is Waterfall Project Management

Plan Then Execute In Project Management

In Waterfall Project Management, you are doing the bulk of the planning upfront. The Project Management Institute states there are 5 steps for any Waterfall based project: 

  1. Initiate
  2. Plan
  3. Execute
  4. Monitor and Control
  5. Close

Notice here that the planning is at the front. You do as much planning as you possibly can before you start executing the work. Plan the work and then work the plan.

In Waterfall Project Management, try to have as much of the information detailed out at the beginning, rather than trying to introduce it throughout the project, like you might in agile project management.

Pros and Cons of Waterfall Project Management

Leadership tends to like Waterfall because you are able to give fairly accurate dates from the start. For example, we are expecting to close the project on this date or we are expecting to complete this chunk of work on this date, etc. There is this larger plan that they can look at and track to.

The downside is there tends to be this belief that you can't change the plan once it has been created. This isn't necessarily true. Often, the first casualty in project management is the plan.
So you build this plan in a waterfall project, then we start executing the project and then the first thing you might notice is that something wasn't planned quite right or that something needs to get added to it.

Technology tools like Microsoft Project for instance, allow us to change project plans and see what the overall impact to the project is in terms of time. For example, if you need to add three days to task #7, will it push the plan out or not.

In Waterfall Project Management, you develop the plan and then you build it, with deliverables and due dates set out in advance.