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A Brief Primer On Progressive Elaboration In Agile – UPDATED 2023

Progressive Elaboration
A Brief Primer On Progressive Elaboration In Agile – UPDATED 2023
The concept of Progressive Elaboration is often associated with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is a key principle in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).
Posted in: Project management
Progressive Elaboration
A Brief Primer On Progressive Elaboration In Agile – UPDATED 2023

Progressive elaboration is the ongoing process of continually refining estimates and scope within a project. 

During the planning process group, project managers develop the project management plan, which may involve making assumptions based on the information available at that specific moment. 

These assumptions are carefully documented, and throughout the project execution phase, project managers closely monitor them for any potential changes.

As the project progresses and changes occur, especially in the project schedule or scope baselines, project managers use their growing knowledge of the project's scope, cost, quality, and requirements to address these changes. 

They continue to refine the estimates they made during the planning phase, taking into account the new information that emerges. 

This iterative process of continuously improving and updating estimates is known as progressive elaboration. It ensures that the project remains on track and adapts effectively to evolving circumstances.

A Brief Primer On Progressive Elaboration

It is a dynamic process that involves continuously refining and expanding project details as more information becomes available. 

The concept of Progressive Elaboration is often associated with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is a key principle in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

At the beginning of a project, there is typically limited information and understanding of the project's scope, requirements, and constraints. 

Progressive Elaboration acknowledges this uncertainty and encourages project managers to start with a basic plan and then iteratively add more details and precision over time.
It recognizes that trying to define everything upfront can be inefficient and unrealistic, especially for complex projects or those with evolving requirements.

During the early stages of Progressive Elaboration, the project team identifies the project's high-level objectives and major deliverables. 

As the team gathers more information and stakeholder feedback, they refine and expand the plan with more specific details, such as a detailed scope, a comprehensive schedule, resource allocations, and risk assessments.

Progressive Elaboration allows projects to adapt to changes, uncertainties, and new requirements. It facilitates a more realistic and practical approach to project management by accepting that not all details can be known at the outset. 

By embracing this iterative approach, project managers can avoid unnecessary rework, better manage risks, and make well-informed decisions based on up-to-date information.

The Benefits of Progressive Elaboration

What Is Progressive Elaboration In Project Management

Progressive elaboration offers several key benefits that make it a valuable approach to project management.

These advantages stem from its adaptive and iterative nature, enabling project teams to respond effectively to uncertainties and changes throughout the project lifecycle. 

Flexibility and Adaptability

Progressive Elaboration recognizes that projects often face evolving requirements and unforeseen challenges. 

By allowing plans to be refined and adjusted as new information emerges, the project team can adapt to changing circumstances without compromising the project's overall objectives.

Reduced Rework

 Trying to define all project details upfront can be impractical, as information gaps and changing conditions can lead to costly rework. 

Progressive Elaboration helps minimize rework by gradually building upon existing plans, ensuring that changes are made in a controlled and informed manner.

Stakeholder Engagement 

Engaging stakeholders throughout the project's lifecycle is critical for success. Progressive Elaboration encourages ongoing collaboration and feedback from stakeholders, making them active participants in the decision-making process. 

This involvement fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the project's outcomes.

Improved Risk Management

 Early in the project, there may be uncertainties that can pose potential risks. As more information is gathered and details are elaborated, risks can be better identified, assessed, and managed. 

This proactive approach enhances the project's ability to respond to and mitigate potential issues effectively.

Realistic Planning 

Attempting to finalize all project details at the beginning can lead to overestimation or underestimation of resources and timelines. 

Progressive Elaboration allows for a more realistic planning process by acknowledging that certain details will become clearer only as the project unfolds.

Cost and Time Savings 

By avoiding extensive planning efforts on uncertain elements, the project team can allocate resources more efficiently. 

Time and effort can be focused on the most critical areas, increasing productivity and reducing unnecessary overhead.

Enhanced Project Control

Progressive Elaboration provides project managers with greater control over the project's direction and progress. 

Regular checkpoints allow for the assessment of achieved milestones and the incorporation of lessons learned into subsequent iterations.

Quality Improvement

As the project evolves, so does the understanding of its requirements and objectives. This leads to continuous improvement in the quality of deliverables, as feedback and lessons learned are incorporated into subsequent phases of development.

What Is Progressive Elaboration In Agile & Project Management?

What Is Progressive Elaboration

So still confused on What Is Progressive Elaboration In Project Management is? 

Well in Agile methodologies like Scrum, the initial planning phase does not aim to have all project details fully defined upfront. Instead, it focuses on establishing a high-level vision and creating a product backlog containing prioritized user stories. 

These user stories are often brief descriptions of desired features or functionalities from the perspective of end-users.

As the development team starts working on the project, they gain a better understanding of the requirements and the product. They receive feedback from stakeholders, end-users, and possibly through iterations of the product itself. 

This feedback loop helps them to progressively elaborate on the product backlog, adding more detailed user stories, breaking down larger tasks, and adjusting priorities based on changing circumstances.

The Agile approach embraces change and recognizes that requirements may evolve as the project unfolds. By allowing progressive elaboration, Agile teams can adapt more easily to new insights, market shifts, and emerging customer needs, ultimately delivering a product that better aligns with the current context.

In traditional project management approaches like the Waterfall model, progressive elaboration is also relevant, but the implications differ slightly. 

In the Waterfall model, the initial project scope is determined through careful planning, often with extensive documentation of requirements, deliverables, and timelines.

However, even in this context, progressive elaboration recognizes that some details and requirements may not be fully understood or documented at the beginning. As the project advances, the team may gain more clarity on specific aspects or discover additional requirements that were not initially apparent. 

This understanding allows them to refine and elaborate on the project plan, making necessary adjustments to ensure successful project delivery. 

Why is Progressive Elaboration Required?

Progressive elaboration is a crucial necessity for various compelling reasons. 

As projects grow in complexity and scope, it becomes increasingly challenging to anticipate all the intricacies from the outset. Employing a progressive elaboration approach enables project teams to adapt and fine-tune their strategies as new information emerges, mitigating the risk of unforeseen obstacles and enhancing overall project success.

Setting effective project objectives increases the likelihood of success significantly. 

By providing more detailed and specific goals using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) criteria, the process of setting targets becomes more manageable. 

SMART objectives are initially established and then refined through incremental elaboration, which not only facilitates the project team in completing the project on time and within budget but also enhances communication and stakeholder management.

Progressive elaboration simplifies stakeholder management, making it easier for project managers to maintain cohesive teams. This approach allows project management teams to seek assistance from organizational experts and gather valuable feedback from frontline team members, resulting in more effective communication throughout the project lifecycle.

Moreover, progressive elaboration offers a more intuitive way of managing a project, as it promotes flexibility and adaptability. It aids in project risk management by enabling project managers to identify potential risks and plan for their occurrence. 

This way, they can develop a well-thought-out risk response plan to effectively mitigate risks as they arise.

Unlike overly strict fixed planning, which can lead to rigidity and a stressful work environment, progressive elaboration embraces an iterative approach. 

This allows for the creation, prototyping, testing, and improvement of numerous product versions while considering more precise requirements. Ultimately, this dynamic planning approach fosters a more efficient and successful project execution.

Types of Progressive Elaboration 

The PMBOK Guide outlines two fundamental approaches to progressive elaboration in project management:

  • Rolling Wave Planning - This technique involves planning and defining project details in waves, where near-term phases are elaborated with greater precision, while future phases are outlined with broader strokes, allowing for flexibility and adaptation as the project progresses.
  • Prototyping - This method entails creating early versions or prototypes of project deliverables, enabling stakeholders to provide feedback, make necessary adjustments, and refine the final product, leading to a more effective and efficient outcome.

Progressive Elaboration Vs Rolling Wave Planning

Progressive Elaboration Vs Rolling Wave Planning

 Progressive Elaboration and Rolling Wave Planning are two project management techniques that are used to handle uncertainty and adapt to changing circumstances during the project lifecycle, lets compare the two:

Progressive Elaboration

This approach recognizes that not all project details can be known at the beginning of a project. Instead, it involves developing and refining project plans and deliverables over time as more information becomes available. 

The key idea is to start with a basic understanding of the project's requirements and objectives and then continuously refine and expand the plan as the project progresses.

Advantages of Progressive Elaboration

  • Flexibility - It allows the project team to adapt to changing requirements and new information without a complete overhaul of the project plan.
  • Iterative Approach - The project is divided into smaller, manageable phases, allowing for incremental improvements.
  • Reduced Upfront Effort - Less time and resources are spent on extensive planning at the beginning, which is especially useful for projects with high uncertainty.

Disadvantages of Progressive Elaboration

  • Potential Delay - The iterative nature of the approach might lead to delays if significant changes are required at later stages.
  • Stakeholder Communication - It requires effective communication to keep stakeholders informed of changes and updates as the project evolves.

Rolling Wave Planning

Rolling Wave Planning is a technique where the project plan is developed in detail for the immediate future, while the plans for future phases are outlined at a higher level. 

As the project progresses and more information becomes available, the detailed plans for future phases are refined and developed further.

Unlike traditional planning methods, rolling wave planning doesn't mean starting a project without any plan. Instead, it begins with the creation of a work breakdown structure (WBS) that outlines the project's tasks, work packages, and deliverables within the current knowledge of the project manager.

As the project progresses and more information becomes available, the project plan evolves accordingly. This approach can be likened to laying tracks in front of a moving train. 

The project moves forward in short sprints during different phases, while continuous planning occurs in the background to provide guidance for the upcoming tasks.

While rolling wave planning is commonly applied in agile software development or new product development, its flexibility makes it applicable to a variety of projects that may not have a fixed and predictable timeline. 

By embracing adaptability and continuous refinement, rolling wave planning enables teams to navigate uncertainty and make informed decisions throughout the project's lifecycle.

Advantages of Rolling Wave Planning

  • Focused Planning - Resources and effort are concentrated on immediate project phases, providing a clearer picture of the current tasks and objectives.
  • Responsiveness - The approach allows for more timely adjustments as new information arises during the project execution.
  • Better Resource Allocation - Detailed planning is done when information is most reliable, optimizing resource allocation.

Disadvantages of Rolling Wave Planning

  • Uncertainty in Later Phases - Lack of detailed planning for future phases may introduce uncertainty and risk in the project's later stages.
  • Continuous Planning Effort - Project managers and teams need to consistently update and refine plans as the project progresses.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, progressive elaboration serves as a project planning approach that involves continuously updating the project plan as new information becomes accessible. 

This method ensures that the project team avoids being overwhelmed with excessive workloads, allowing them to focus effectively on the current tasks. 

By adapting to the evolving circumstances, progressive elaboration facilitates a more efficient and successful project execution. 

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Wednesday, 28 February 2024
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