After reading this blog post that suggests that the Death Star was an agile project I was wondering if using metaphors is a good way of describing methodologies in a slightly fun way.

'Movie x demonstrated agile because of a, b, c' - 'Movie y demonstrated waterfall because of f, g, h' - would this help clients understand what the concepts actually mean?

  • The best metaphor for Agile is a waterfall. The best metaphor for Waterfall is a metal frame into which concrete will be poured. Popular culture ... I don't know about that.
    – Smandoli
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 18:38
  • 1
    All abstractions (metaphors, in this case) are leaky. The trick would be to close the leak to a trickle as best as possible. :)
    – BryanH
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 18:41

5 Answers 5


Absolutely, use whatever metaphor or tool you can to explain the difference.

You might find the following articles helpful:

Agile Mindset, Waterfall Mindset uses agile and waterfall as metaphors themselves.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Projects discusses the importance of creating "boundary objects" -linguistic tools or project artifacts to improve communication on projects.

  • Nice work on the blog articles.
    – Smandoli
    Commented Mar 25, 2011 at 22:36

waterfall is like artillery: a lot of setup, tons of prep work, massive amounts of ordinance, extremely precise aiming, difficulty hitting a moving target, and takes out a city block wherever it lands

agile is like a missile: arm, fire, aim...aim...aim...aim...aim...


Funny question.

I think of Matrix as Iterative, as The Architect mention that is the sixth version of the Matrix, so machines build in a iterative way.

Evan Almighty construction of the Noa´s Arc, is a good example of waterfall.


Technical matter and business can easily be some kind of arid. And everything which can be useful to make things more understandable is good. Just be careful with metaphors: they can easily bring with them some false ideas.

Of course, the metaphor needs to be well fitted for the people you're aiming. For example, Star Wars is maybe not a good metaphor if you want to explain agile methods to the C level of your company...


Of course. What area of thought or practice is not helped by metaphor? What after all is thought?

I suggest the movie "Rain Man". Tom Cruise for Agile, Dustin Hoffman for Waterfall.


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