Best Practices For Using The Waterfall Management Style In Recruitment – Project Management Series
May 1, 2020

Best Practices For Using The Waterfall Management Style In Recruitment – Project Management Series

Teri Gibson
Teri Gibson Head of Client Operations

I’ve always been a fan of Waterfalls. No, I don’t mean the ones that have flowing water cascading down mountains (although those are beautiful!). I mean the project management method… It’s one one of the oldest styles used in projects and nowadays is seen as quite old-fashioned and unsexy. Waterfall management style became popular from the construction and manufacturing industries in the ‘70s and it’s a very straight-forward way of managing a project. Perhaps that’s why I’m so fond of it – it’s uncomplicated, easy to follow and progress can be easily seen.

If you’re unfamiliar with Waterfall, or just want a refresher – follow on below for a quick explanation, and how to implement Gantt charts to help you implement Waterfall in your projects.

Phases in a Waterfall project 

With the Waterfall project management style, the process is very rigid and there are a number of predefined stages. The stages are in sequence and only once a stage is complete, can the next stage begin.

The phases in a Waterfall project are:

  1. Understand, define and document the requirements
  2. Design and plan the project
  3. Implement and develop small parts of the project
  4. Test each part of the project and integrate them
  5. Deliver or deploy to the client
  6. Maintain or modify to improve performance

Benefits & downfalls of the Waterfall Project Management style 

There are upsides and downsides to everything and Waterfall is no exception. Two of the advantages of using this project management style include:

  • How detailed the planning is. This makes decision-making and expectation management easy since the planning is in-depth
  • With the visualisation of the project, you’re also able to see project and task progress, dependencies and delays quickly

On the flipside, speed to launch is not fast and the next step in the project cannot be started before the previous stage is finalised. Additionally, adapting to change and bottlenecks is very difficult, as changing the project requirements is not easy.

Gantt Charts

Now, you might be asking, “How do I show progress in an exciting way if the actual style is quite boring?” Excellent question! Introducing Gantt charts – a well-known tool that seems to have been forgotten about since newer methodologies (eg: Agile or Lean) came about.

Gantt charts visualise the steps in the process and are able to show task timelines and dependencies. They are a great way to envision the various stages, tasks and timelines for the project, and can be used in many types of projects.

Actually, they are pretty similar to a bar chart. You’re easily able to see what specific work needs to be done when and by whom. More in-depth Gantt charts can also show project milestones, the progress of tasks and how long a task is expected to take.

5 best practices when creating a Gantt chart

Here are some practical pointers on how to maximise the use of a Gantt chart:

1. Make it detailed 

The more detail there is, the easier it is to see actual progress within the project. And to make it even better, try grouping your tasks – for example, group tasks relating to making a new vacancy for a role, or group activities which relate to setting up the ATS.

Making a Gantt Chart tip 1

2. Display start and end dates for each task

This helps to make everyone aware of the timeframes for each task. Thus, if something is delayed, it’s quick to see what other work it will have an impact on.

Making a Gantt Chart tip 2

3. Make task dependencies visible

Be aware of what – and who – is waiting for something else. This will help you structure the workload better, and will reduce the amount of time waiting for something else to be finished first.

Making a Gantt Chart tip 3

4. Note down any milestones 

These are the anchor points or key events which take place in a project. It’s very motivational to see the team move past these points and it helps to track progress within the project.

Making a Gantt Chart tip 4

5. Use a tool! 

There are so many awesome online tools to help you create and make a Gantt chart. I highly recommend using one of these instead of doing it manually yourself in Google Sheets or Excel. One of the tools I use daily is Asana – and they’ve got a feature called Timeline which is their version of a Gantt chart.

Gantt Chart Asana


Waterfall in Recruitment

Waterfall is the most useful in projects where the scope or requirements are set in stone and frequent updates or iterations are not required. It can be applied to recruitment since it is a candidate’s journey through the pipeline. There are predefined stages – such a phone screen, tech test, offer – and the candidate can only move through the pipeline after they have completed a stage.

Although these days Waterfall is not the most popular project management style, using this style with step-by-step projects can be effective. It does work for projects which have stricter scopes and deadlines. Gantt charts specifically can be easily made and they give a great overview of what is going on in your project. For the team, it shows what to do when, who is responsible and who depends on them for other tasks. Finally, for the project manager, it’s helpful to have a clear, simple layout that you can quickly glance over to get an overview of where the project is.

Do you want to read more about project management styles? Make sure to click the link to find out all about working agile: why & how can you take it into recruitment?

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