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Five Phases of Disillusionment in Pre-Agile Waterfall Development

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In an enterprise employing a waterfall development methodology, the product manager's mindset undergoes a predictable shift of perspective, says Dean Leffingwell, author of Scaling Software Agility: Best Practices for Large Enterprises. He describes the five stages of downward spiral.
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Prior to Agile, many enterprises followed a sequential, stage-gated waterfall development model. In these cases, it's likely that the product manager's mindset moved through a series of increasingly foreboding attitudes, as Figure 1 shows.

Figure 1: Phases of product management disillusionment in waterfall development.

Let's consider the characteristics of each stage.

Phase 1: Unbridled Enthusiasm

In this phase, the product manager spends her time with customers, interviewing, running workshops, and using whatever other tools are available to define and document the requirements for the prospective new system. These requirements are typically captured in a Marketing Requirements Document (MRD) or Product Requirements Document (PRD). The development team typically responds with a Software Requirements Specification (SRS) or System Design Specification (SDS), which further refines and records the intent of the Product Requirements Document.

At the end of this phase, which may take from 3–6 months to document and gain the requisite approvals, the development effort is launched and there's a handoff to engineering.

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