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What Is Rolling Wave Planning?

Ryan Buma
Publication date:
October 28, 2021
Article Summary: 

What Is Rolling Wave Planning?

Rolling wave planning is a type of project schedule that focuses on iterative work and frequent updates to the project plan. It is a project planning technique for projects that don't offer all the data needed to create a plan or schedule up front. It begins as most projects do, with a work breakdown structure (WBS) to the tasks, work packages and deliverables within the project scope. The project plan then evolves as more details become clear. Rolling wave planning is most often applied to agile software development or new product development, but it can be used for other projects that might not move as swiftly.

It is helpful when the project plan has a lot of uncertainty and can be set up to let you pivot as needed if any of those risks become issues. Rolling wave planning is a useful technique for projects where all project planning data isn't immediately available and when the project execution is risky. It gives team members a clear picture of the work items they need to do in the immediate future of the project schedule, making buy-in more likely and accountability. It also gives them wiggle room in the project, allowing them to make changes quickly. Rolling wave planning is mostly used for software development, but there are other projects and industries that are a good fit for it, such as research and development (R&D) projects and high-tech projects.


rolling wave planning, project schedule, project planning, agile software development, project management, product development, new product development, risks

Source Citation: 
Ryan Buma
What Is Rolling Wave Planning?
October 28, 2021
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