Waterfall and agile project methods/frameworks are what most people think of when talking about project traditions. But in reality the project traditions are related to projects methods that have been developed from Engineering practices, and those project practices have been developed from the Social Sciences. So the vast majority of business process and IT projects are based on the Engineering approach whilst business (cultural) change projects undertaken by Business Change Managers generally follow the Social approach.
There is a fundamental difference between these two approaches. The Engineering approach seeks to remove ambiguity by seeking clarity of requirements as a precursor to progressing through the project stages as defined by a waterfall project methodology. However, a Social approach accepts that ambiguity exists and aims to progress through a discovery period designed to build understanding, experience and knowledge that together produce clarity as an outcome of the project. For example:
Engineering tradition -
- Define, design, develop, deploy
- Clarity required upfront and requirements locked down
- Suited to traditional project management methods
Social tradition -
- Discover, Understand, Experience,
- Objective is to build clarity as an outcome of the project
- Suited to agile, adaptive or rapid prototyping project methods
Ensuring that the project is using the most suitable project tradition for what the business is actually trying to achieve is a critical indicator of success.