About this podcast episode

🤿 Dive into the waterfall, return to shore with 💨 agility

We are thrilled to have David Abodunrin, Agile Coach and Scrum Master, discuss his transition from waterfall to agility on today’s podcast.

David and Bill share stories based on their experience to explore the inherent challenges and rewards in shifting from predictive, waterfall project management to adaptive agile approaches. This podcast is an important listen if you embark on a similar journey.

Here’s what you will learn:

✅ The challenges one faces while transitioning from Waterfall to Agile

✅ The factors that distinguish a scrum master from a project manager

✅ Understand the concept of “team wisdom” and its significance in Agile

🎉 Learn how effective agility can lead to better outcomes, faster delivery, and improved team dynamics


(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity)

[00:00:00] Introduction and Guest Presentation

[00:00:00] Bill Raymond: Hi and welcome to the Agile in Action podcast with Bill Raymond. Today, I’m excited to introduce David Abodunrin, Agile Coach and Scrum Master. We’re going to be talking about charting a new course, and that’s the transition from Waterfall to Agile.

If you don’t know what any of that means. Hang on tight. We’re going to be talking about it. Hi, David. How are you today?

[00:00:22] David Abodunrin: I’m good, Bill. I’m fine. Awesome to be here. Thank you so much for having me. Really appreciate what you’re doing and thank you. I’m excited to be here today.

[00:00:31] Bill Raymond: Yeah, I am too. I’m really excited about the conversation. Before we get into it, can you introduce yourself?

[00:00:38] David Abodunrin: Yeah.

[00:00:38] David Abodunrin’s Career Journey

[00:00:38] David Abodunrin: My name is David being in project management and program management for about two decades maybe a little more started my career in the earlier days in technology in electronics, computer engineering, after my first degree at the Lagos City University. And then I moved into, after a few years of working as a telecoms networking transmission engineer, I moved into core project management.

Been there, done a lot. Aside from project coordinator role, they’re moving to project manager role. Works with the biggest telcos in West Africa. Two of the very biggest ones Vmobile and later on now Airtel and later on MTN that’s most, that’s the biggest namein the continent of Africa.

But in Nigeria I was National Project Planning and Monitoring Manager, where I did extensive work in Waterfall. And after a while, I had the real blessing of getting opportunities to practice within the creative industry, where I was Project Management Director for the largest marketing communications group in West Africa. At that point, just before I pivoted from MTN, my love and interest and passion in agile had started because I had some experiences on some projects that I handled for a certain small start up at that time. Around 2012 was a very eye opening moment for me.

And precipitated my movement from waterfall, my belief system in waterfall and moved me into the direction of agility and deeper business solutions that I’ve been doing since then got experience as a Scrum Master, a product owner, and now very senior Scrum Master and also agile coaching which are some of the things that I do now.

Now I live in the UK where in 2020, I did my master’s, my MBA, and I hold international business school. And again, I did a second master’s in cyber security, trade intelligence, and cyber forensics, leaning on my experiences in technology over the years. So here I am managing cyber security projects the agile way.

So that’s my story in in, in a brief nutshell.

[00:02:51] Bill Raymond: You and I have gone through some fairly similar paths there, so I’m sure we can share some stories along the way, but I think it would be really useful for listeners, if you can describe what project management and waterfall mean to you, so we could start with that basic definition from your perspective.

[00:03:10] Understanding Waterfall and Agile Methodologies

[00:03:10] David Abodunrin: Okay. Waterfall is the simple concept of managing a project from start to finish, meaning there’s a finite life cycle or lifespan with a beginning and ending and it follows a linear thinking sequential delivery pattern. So you’ve got things like initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling and closing.

The waterfall also has the implication of whatever comes from the top, just speculates down through the entire project, both in structure and in the logic and execution of the project.

This is the thinking in waterfall, but in agile thinking or agility as a field, customer satisfaction, working software rather than documentation features that meet customer specification at a certain level what you call minimum viable product can be deployed in a way that we are able to get value quicker and faster rather than wait eight to nine to ten months as in waterfall, when we’ve got to go through initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling with agile, we work in an iterative, intuitive way until we get to a feature or set of features.

I’ve seen projects that started with very powerful planning exercises. Excellent planning strategies. By the time they got to 80%, just a few weeks ready to launch, the market dynamics had changed. The consumer, or the person that the product was being created for, suddenly moved on in some cases.

Now that is one of the weaknesses of waterfall methodology. It relies too much on sequence and approvals. Why agility or being agile works to deliver. Within the sprint and within one iteration Minimum viable product a product that we cannot that we can improve on or a feature that can be added That is the that’s a very major shift in between the two from a value positioning perspective if you were to start a project in waterfall when you do the project for 12 years Or 10 years using waterfall you understand immediately that benefit realization cannot be done in full until the end But with Agile, we can begin to think of a benefit realization far earlier, and quicker, and neater, and more affordable, with more transparency and buy in, where everybody must come together to drive these results.

Those are good definitions. I appreciate that.

[00:05:53] The Transition from Project Management to Agile

[00:05:53] Bill Raymond: One of the things that I’m thinking about my experience because just like you, I still do have a balance of work that I do in the project management space. And I have a balance of work that I do in the agile space. One of the things that really stood out for me when I was making the shift was,

I’m used to doing something like spending a few months creating a scope statement that it described what we will do before we even build the plan. And I remembered my very first project where we said we’re going to do agile here. There’s some things that are going to be different. And it was described to me.

And I was a little bit confused because, you know, I’m thinking, oh well, agile just seems to say take any process and throw it out the window. It’s not really doing that, but that’s what it felt like. And I remembered I had our very first meeting with the client, with my developers that worked for me at the time and what happened was we finished our first meeting where they discussed what it was that they needed.

And then we’re going to come back at the end of the week to kind of summarize that and think about what we wanted to do next. Three days later. The developers came back and said we created a littleof what they asked for and then we want to show it to the client. And I said, wait a minute, we haven’t even finished the scope.

And I realized that was one of the big first aha moments. Oh, we’re not doing it the way we used to do it.

[00:07:18] David Abodunrin: what are some of the things that you learned along the way?

As a traditional waterfall project manager transitioning into the Agile space, I noticed I had mental resistances and mental blocks coming from my biases. For example, I didn’t know I had a bias like People don’t, if you don’t mandate people hard, they will not do what they’re supposed to do, but that’s not true.

People, nobody left home to be a failure to come to work. Why would they be committing those number of hours? They don’t genuinely know something. There’s something that they can learn or they can know that can make their lives better and hence led me to think deeper about agile. The other thing about from internal control is the ability to trust the team.

Project managers in waterfall are trained to be so hyper. You are on schedule. There’s a CPI cost performance indicator index, shared performance indicator index. You are a bunker and repository of the capital. to make decisions in the agile realm team. Wisdom is key is not only key. Whatever the team sees carries more weight because you are just an individual on the team.

As a Scrum Master you are you’re a servant master. That’s the phrase I was looking for. You’re not a boss You’re a servant master. You’re part of the team to facilitate knowledge and help drive productive resolutions and answers provide clarity.

Your job will now be to let them go, to let them go and take their decisions in their own minds. That would be the job of the agile coach or the Scrum Master as the case might be.

[00:08:56] Bill Raymond: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. As the term project manager implies almost is that you are there to apply pressure and to get people to deliver on this list of things that you’ve prebuilt that, that need to get done. Whereas in Agile, what you’re saying is no, we’re all working collaboratively to do that.

And I would say this, I would say that I don’t know any project managers to say we don’t work collaboratively as a team that’s, I don’t think we’re trying to say that.

[00:09:28] David Abodunrin: Not at all. The bigger part of the conversation is that Agile helps you to create results faster. Helps you to demonstrate proof of concepts or proof of value much more faster. Gives you the opportunity for a look ahead story. I know what’s gonna happen next, how we’re going to execute it, I don’t know, but at least there is a sequence to the madness.

What we’re doing is being careful to organize well. So Agile is the project organizing arm of project management that I will continue to recommend for a very long time.

[00:10:10] Bill Raymond: I think this is interesting.

If I put up a list of all the things that need to be done for some project, everyone kind of feels like they’ve signed up for that list of things. But with agile, you’re saying here are a few objectives that we have. Here are the outcomes that we want. And you might have a list of things, but that list can be thrown out the window if it has to, and we can create a new list.

[00:10:35] David Abodunrin: Absolutely. Which is now part of the teams and the team leaders. And that’s, and that way of working is not easy for a project manager to to sit down and swallow it easily.

As a project manager, you are always at the forefront. of change in a meaningful way that the organization has no choice than to have your expertise Because you deliver value faster cheaper quicker.

There are places on occasion where you should stay waterfall’ish. And there are some cases where you should go or where it’s better to go hybrid. And for sure, there are environments where agility will be the way. So that such that we are beginning to have Agile HR, we’re beginning to have a process improvement kind of things that are agile was the bigger point I’m making, whatever solution you’re trying to work on, there’s a context and a culture and the dynamics of the markets in which you’re operating that should move your hand anyway.

In the direction of which of this you want to use or how you want to combine but effectively Agile helps you and that’s that was the point that I did the I took the slide detour from Agile helps you to get your results faster quicker and cheaper any day.

[00:11:56] Bill Raymond: You just mentioned that there are times when project management is perfectly valid and agile is perfectly valid. You’ve been doing this for a long time now. What are some like solid examples of good use of project management?

[00:12:11] David Abodunrin: To the degree to which your project is predictable in delivery, in performance, in scheduling, then think waterfall.

Whenever there’s a lot of uncertainty, think Agile. Whenever the customer or consumer doesn’t know what they want, or things are very blurry around objectives and key indicators anywhere, talk to Agile.

Sometimes we see the role of a project manager transition to that of a Scrum Master. Can you quickly give a broad overview as to what a Scrum Master is and are they comparable roles or are they completely different?

[00:12:46] The Role of a Scrum Master

[00:12:46] David Abodunrin: A Scrum Master is different from a project manager. Although many organizations make the mistakes at times. I’ve seen an organization that says, for a job rule, Scrum Master slash project manager. It’s a strange combination and they are not equal. The project manager takes care of scheduling, cost, quality, risk management issues management when they arise.

There’s something called management of resources. There is all of that going on. The project manager manages all of those things for delivery.

The Scrum Master is a person who does the capability building of the team in scrum and the ceremonies of scrum.

Scrum Master coaches, teaches, mentors, and facilitates. The Scrum


Is a subject matter expert in the scrum artifacts way of life culture way of working and the Scrum Master has a unique productivity capability the ability to look at value streams in the team and optimize it and make it better, cut waste and all of those. That is the core role of Scrum Master.

If your project is really big, you will certainly need a project manager at some place and a Scrum Master. Depending on how complex your organization is or how deep you’re thinking or what are the factors that you’re playing around with.

At the end of the day, the Scrum Master owns the leadership of the scrum team for excellence while project manager bothers with scheduling, dates resourcing and all sorts of issues. That’s a subtle difference. In practical terms, some people who are scrum masters double as project manager, I dare say it will not happen on the same project.

You will lose one and gain one. You will mess one up, you will gain the other one. It doesn’t happen in my experience very well at one project. No, you have to separate the roles.

[00:14:59] Bill Raymond: That makes sense. And I guess that actually leads into, I think, one of the big questions that our audience has had is

if you will, going from that formal project management role to the way we typically describe agile teams, I’m curious, what is some advice that you would give to them?

[00:15:19] Advice for Transitioning from Project Management to Agile

[00:15:19] David Abodunrin: To any young Scrum Master, number one, don’t get frustrated. There’ll be moments of frustration on the way. You’re going to meet difficult team members. You’re going to meet developers who want you to look stupid. You’re going to meet people who think they are more brilliant than you. Remember you’re a servant leader and nobody gravitates away from help. Number two, as soon as possible, get your hands on the tools and learn by doing not by lecturing or by being told. Find heavy opportunity to learn many people start the journey for Scrum on the knowledge lane. The problem is assimilation is complex, but you seldom forget what you experienced yourself.

The map is not the territory because you read a lot of textbooks about being a Scrum Master. It doesn’t mean you’re a Scrum Master yet. It means you understand the theory, but there’s still a whole lot that can be learned by, I don’t want to use African colloquial, as long as in Africa, say calm down.

Calm down and assimilate. For example, the word facilitation or a Scrum Master as a facilitator. It looks simple on paper until you practice facilitation until you try to facilitate a team and reduce wastes. What did Japanese call Muda. If you want to reduce wastes or you want to increase the throughput that is coming through their pipe.

If you use traditional project management understanding, you will enter into bumps. As a project manager, you’re allowed to be the leader. You must have all the answers, you must know what costs is saying,

those are good, but there are newer ways of working on newer technologies to do facilitation that you can facilitate to create value. Provide clarity, improve productivity by understanding how the value chain works, know what are the moments of wastes and isolate them non valuable items of the release train can be harvested out by strong facilitation skills.

Do you have a story you can share of when you were starting in this journey where there was this sort of aha moment where you realized I’m doing things maybe not the Agile way?

[00:17:40] Personal Experiences and Lessons Learned

[00:17:40] David Abodunrin: Yep. Yep. For example, scheduling in traditional project management is a project manager’s full responsibility.

In the case of this particular project, we kept on battling schedules.It kept changing. It kept changing until we got someone who called let us see new ways. It was a consultant and the guy was just sharing. Okay so, listen gentleman. If you want to do this kind of code software uh, I want to do it in two weeks. What numbers do we need? And it was a room full of people in about, I was shocked

I got it all together in three hours.Now flash, flash news. I had been struggling with that schedule. For almost a week and a half different things seem out of place somebody will come and say no this outcome is like this You can’t have this like that.

You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You can’t do that You can’t do this, but when you go to a certain level that person helped me in three and a half hours. Backlog was arranged. How long did it take? Who is going to do? It was like I was watching a movie, but here was I on the Gantt chart for many weeks.

Okay. Doing this, call that person, get that person. So the hammer was team wisdom is superior to individual wisdom. We are not, we are stronger. We are all wiser with each other. We are stronger with each other. Everyone has value to contribute to a schedule conversation or a backlog arrangement, or a sprint retrospective if you have the group.

So the golden rule: trust the team, empower them to deliver, give them the numbers, whatever you have and back off. Backing off is not easy. So that’s it. I can’t forget how, how, how in three hours the dates were already, how the team will work, what they’ll be doing.So this guy has very strong facilitation skills.

[00:19:36] Closing Remarks and Contact Information

[00:19:36] David Abodunrin: David Abodunrin how can people reach you?

Yes. You can reach me via LinkedIn.

[00:19:41] Bill Raymond: We will make sure that your LinkedIn profile is provided in the https://agileinaction.com website. If you’re watching this on YouTube, it’ll be there in the description. And of course, if you’re in a podcast app right now, it’ll be in the notes. This was such a great conversation, David.

Thank you so much for your time today.

[00:19:59] David Abodunrin: Thank you for having me, Bill. Awesome. I’ve enjoyed myself so much. Thank you so much.

[00:20:04] Bill Raymond: Thank you for listening to the Agile in Action Podcast with Bill Raymond. Subscribe now to stay current on the latest trends in team, organization, and agile techniques. Please take a moment to rate and comment to help us grow our community. This podcast is produced in affiliation with Cambermast LLC, and our executive producer is Reama Dagasan.

[00:20:25] Speaker: If there is a topic you would like Bill to cover, contact him directly at Bill.Raymond@agileinaction.com.