Bringing about change is what a project manager lives for. What happens when that change is made to your project management style?

Once the decision has been made to move towards an agile project management style, what difficulties will the organisation face when moving from waterfall to Scrum methodology? We’re going to look at:

  • What the waterfall and Scrum methods are
  • What challenges you may face during the transition
  • How to manage and overcome the challenges you face

So that you’re prepared for the transition when it comes to your project management office.

What’s the difference between waterfall and Scrum?

Waterfall and Scrum are both ways that a project can be managed, with waterfall being more of a guiding principle whilst Scrum is classed as a framework to function within. Scrum isn’t a direct opposite to waterfall, it’s a technique that would be classed as an agile method of project management.

Let’s break it down a little more.

Waterfall project management

A traditional way to manage a project, waterfall is sequential and best used when there’s a structured and physical environment to work within. If the end product would be very costly to revise, using a waterfall style of management is prudent.

The project will move in steps, completing conception before moving on to:

  • Initiation
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Testing
  • Production
  • Maintenance

Scrum project management

Falling into the general category of agile project management, Scrum proscribes steps and actions to take to ensure an adaptable project delivery. The tight methodology with algorithms and fixed processes of waterfall shift to a more heuristic approach focussed on self-discovery within teams.

Problem-solving and self-organisation are also hallmarks of Scrum. Some other characteristics of Scrum are:

  • The Scrum Master whose job it is to lead the team and offer practical feedback as well increase understanding of delivering the project
  • Daily Scrums where the team meets for fifteen minutes each day to ensure the project is adapting to goals
  • Sprints are when the project moves into creating deliverables

There’s much more to running a team using Scrum, and we’ll discuss that here.

Where are the pinch-points when I introduce Scrum to my projects?

As with any new process, there are going to be challenges to rolling it out. It can be worth persevering with, as long as your project:

  • Doesn’t have a clearly defined requirement from the beginning
  • Has a high chance of lots of regular changes
  • Requires plenty of testing and refinement
  • Has a team with strong self-management skills

But just because your project is ideal for this delivery method, doesn’t guarantee it will be plain sailing.


The mantra with Scrum is that it’s easy to understand but tough to master. You need to ensure each project manager is dedicated to implementing the system and sticking to the guiding principles. If focus is lost and a team creeps back towards linear, waterfall management it could be detrimental to the project management office and the business. Ensure your managers are behind the process and that sufficient training and long-term support is given.


Adapting to change is tough for any business, even in projects that deliver it all the time. Changing projects to much more regular delivery steps and increased feedback and input can be hard to take. The solution to this is strong leadership and good people management – bring the team with you by showing them how it will be better for them.


If you manage a remote team, Scrum can have major hurdles to leap over. Juggling time zones and managing communication challenges can be magnified with Scrum because it relies on collaborative efforts and regular face-to-face meetings. Honing your remote management skills by having the right tools and the right team will mitigate this issue.


When was the last time your 15-minute meeting lasted 15 minutes? It’s an artform to have a meeting end on time, and it’s imperative with the Scrum method. Daily meetings can feel tiresome for team members but are critical to surface challenges and communicate changes. Time management techniques like a physical timing device can instil some discipline.


As with any change in a business, moving from the tried and tested waterfall process of project management to using Scrum, won’t be plain sailing. The difficulties you’ll face with the move from waterfall to Scrum aren’t insurmountable, but will take time and patience to overcome.