A False dilemma “involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered”, states the Wikipedia, “when in fact there are other options”. Do you remember “If you are not with us, you are against us.”? Well, that happens when you fall in fundamentalism.
Fundamentalist anti-agilists got deeply offended because they say agile doesn’t follow a scientific approach, that it is offensive not treating Project Management as a Computer Science, alas! Turing is wallowing in his tomb!
Fundamentalist anti-cascadists say that traditional software management techniques are obsolete, that it ignores the innate nature of uncertainty of every software project, the virtue of self-managed teams always outperforms past management practices.
Before continuing, let me state clearly that I am a truly believer of High Performance Teams (HPT). In the way of getting a HPT you will inevitably ended up practicing the agile principles.
That said, HPT’s are not always needed. So practicing agile is not always needed. Although most of the software projects fall in the uncertainty levels suitable for Agile, there a bunch of cases when direct and cascade-like managing is the best fit, so a group, rather than a team is needed.
Take the case of some massive web agencies or software sweat shops (very common down here in Costa Rica), or a well established and reliable software migration processes. They are a typical production line. They’ve got efficiency through specializing and strongly documenting every phase of the project development (or better said: production line). Of course, there are parts of those processes that can be significantly improved by implementing agile practices. Even more, those kind of companies would want to jump to the “Product Creation” wagon where Agile is the best.
Be wise and take time for analyzing the complexity of the problem/project about to start. To do that, make your homework and use the Ralph Stacey’s Agreement & Certainty Matrix against the project:
When issues are Close to Agreement and Close to Certainty, Stacey says:
Much of the management literature and theory addresses the region on the matrix which is close to certainty and close to agreement. In this region, we use techniques which gather data from the past and use that to predict the future. We plan specific paths of action to achieve outcomes and monitor the actual behavior by comparing it against these plans. This is sound management practice for issues and decisions that fall in this area. The goal is to repeat what works to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
That is: use Cascade.
When issues are in the edge of chaos (Complex gray area), Stacey says:
This is the zone of complexity where the traditional management approaches are not very effective but it is the zone of high creativity, innovation, and breaking with the past to create new modes of operating.
That is: use agile.