Progressive elaboration is a project management technique used to gradually increase the level of detail in a project plan as more information becomes available. It is closely related to the rolling wave planning method, and is often used in conjunction with it. The technique involves starting with a high-level plan and then adding more detail as the project reprogresses.

ref : Project Management

At each stage of a new project, progressive elaboration enables a team to ask and accept feedback from a variety of stakeholders. This frequently results in a revision of project requirements and provides the team with the facts, insight, and expertise necessary for successful project completion.

An example of progressive elaboration would be a software development project. At the beginning of the project, the team would have a high-level plan that outlines the overall objectives of the project and the major milestones. As the project progresses, the team would gradually add more detail to the plan, such as specific tasks that need to be completed, the resources required to complete them, and the timelines for each task. This allows the team to be more responsive to changes and uncertainties that may arise during the project.

Progressive elaboration involves continuously improving and detailing a plan as more detailed and specific information and more accurate estimates become available. Progressive elaboration allows a project management team to define work and manage it to a greater level of detail as the project evolves.

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Progressive Elaboration in Predictive Project Lifecycle

In a Waterfall project lifecycle, Progressive Elaboration is used in the planning and design phase of the project. The Waterfall methodology is a linear, sequential approach to project management, where each phase of the project must be completed before the next phase can begin. Progressive elaboration is used to gradually increase the level of detail in the project plan as more information becomes available during the planning and design phase.

During the planning and design phase, the team will start with a high-level plan that outlines the overall objectives of the project and the major milestones. As the project progresses, the team will add more detail to the plan, such as specific requirements, tasks, resources and timelines, to ensure that the project stays on track and meets the objectives.

For example, In the beginning of the project, the team might have a high-level plan that outlines the overall scope of the project, the major milestones, and the general timeline. As the project progresses, the team will add more detailed information to the plan, such as specific features and requirements, the resources required to develop them, and the timelines for each feature. This allows the team to be more responsive to changes and uncertainties that may arise during the project, such as changes in the business requirements or new technologies that become available.

‘the iterative process of increasing the level of detail in a project management plan as greater amounts of information and more accurate estimates become available.’

Source: PMBOK®, 6th edition, glossary.

Progressive Elaboration in Agile

In Agile project management, Progressive Elaboration is used to gradually increase the level of detail in the project plan as more information becomes available. Agile methodologies, such as Scrum and Kanban, are iterative and incremental, and allow for flexibility and adaptability throughout the project lifecycle.

In Agile, Progressive Elaboration is used to continuously update and refine the project plan throughout the project, rather than creating a detailed plan at the beginning of the project and adhering to it strictly.

For example, in an Agile project using Scrum, the team would start with a high-level plan, called a product backlog, which outlines the overall objectives of the project and the major features. The team would then work through a series of sprints, where they would incrementally add more detail to the plan, such as specific requirements, tasks, and timelines, to ensure that the project stays on track and meets the objectives.

In Kanban, the team would use a visual board to track the progress of tasks, and continuously update and refine the plan as more information becomes available. The team would pull new tasks from the backlog as they complete work on existing tasks, and update the board to reflect the status of the project.

In both cases, Progressive Elaboration allows the team to be more responsive to changes and uncertainties that may arise during the project, and to continuously improve the project plan to ensure that it meets the business needs and goals.

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