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Author: Nehal Padia

To-Be or Not-To-Be AGILE!

If you are one of the ones that face this unusual predicament when embarking on a new project to figure out if you can deliver

all the way using Agile or to go complete Waterfall (Predictive), this article might help you get some headwinds.

I have been managing and executing projects of various scales for the past 17 years and frankly the project management landscape has evolved so much during this time with various new Agile methodologies emerging helping us all make efficient use of resources and time. However, with so much choice it has also made it equally difficult to understand which project management life cycle to use when in order to get the most optimized results. Thankfully for us, PMI has identified four different distinct project management life cycles and with guidelines on which one to use when.

The following sections will review the four different project management life cycles, their advantages and when to use them with an example inspired from food.

Project Management Life Cycles

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Predictive project life cycle takes advantage of things that are known and proven over time and hence help reduce uncertainty and manage overall cost.

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  • Requirements are fixed.
  • An activity is performed only once for the entire project.
  • Single delivery at the end.
  • Effective in managing cost.

Example: Packaged Food

Packaged food process goes through a very predictive life cycle wherein the product, their recipes and ingredients are fixed which go through a standardized conveyor belt predefined process that is expected to yield the same output for each food packet with the same recipe. The entire process is designed for cost efficiency.


Iterative project life cycle allows for feedback on partially completed or unfinished work to adjust for a desired outcome at the end.

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  • Requirements are dynamic.
  • Activities are repeated until correct.
  • Single delivery at the end.
  • Effective in getting the desired outcome.

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Example: Developing a new food recipe

The food research and development (R&D) process that is working towards building a new recipe falls under this bucket. In the process a combination of new ingredients and different quantities are tested several times before the final optimum recipe is discovered. The entire process is designed to help discover that optimum recipe at the end.


Incremental project life cycle provides finished deliverable that the customer may be able to use immediately.

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  • Requirements are dynamic.
  • Activities are performed once for a given increment.
  • Frequent smaller deliverables.
  • Effective in speed.

Example: Restaurant Food

The restaurant process falls under this bucket wherein a customer could potentially order any dish from the menu which needs to be served in the next few mins on the table. The order is prepared only after its been placed and the chef would use a predefined restaurant recipe to prepare the dish.


Agile project life cycle leverages both the aspects of iterative and incremental characteristics. In this approach teams iterate over the product by getting periodic feedback from the end user. Also, teams prioritize the most valuable changes first providing an immediate return on investment.

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  • Requirements are dynamic.
  • Activities are repeated until correct.
  • Frequent smaller deliverables.
  • Effective in getting customer value via frequent deliveries and feedback.

Example: Home Cooked Meal

This one is my favorite, for a home cooked meal no two requests are the same as it could be a Pizza one day and Pasta the other or you might be cooking for a completely new cuisine altogether. Everything is variable for each home cooked meal you prepare, from your number of guests to ingredients and recipes that are influenced by the cuisines and prior knowledge or experience on them all with a singular goal to prepare that most delicious meal for the entire family.


In my experience, most projects fluctuate between Predictive and Agile life cycles primarily due to the nature of all the complexities that go into delivering that final finished outcome for a specific industry, sector or type of product. There are also times when you could have a largely Predictive project with components of other life cycles within it. For instance, drug manufacturing could use Iterative cycle life for R&D portion however overall still be Predictive as it requires funding process in the beginning and FDA approval at the end which are more linear in nature.

Personally, I don’t think there’s a single best life cycle, they all have their pros/cons and there’s a time and place for its most effective use. However, I sincerely hope this article was able to at least help solve that predicament we started with, which is to-be or not-to-be Agile for your next project.