For enquiries call:



HomeBlogProject ManagementRolling Wave Planning: Process, Steps, Benefits

Rolling Wave Planning: Process, Steps, Benefits

19th Feb, 2024
view count loader
Read it in
10 Mins
In this article
    Rolling Wave Planning: Process, Steps, Benefits

    When planning a project, the big picture isn't evident. However, using a standard project management method like a waterfall, you must first set everything up and then be bound by it. But there are other ways to handle a project outside the waterfall methodology. Some project managers favor scrum, an agile methodology. Others still embrace agile software development models that allow them to modify their project schedules. This kind of agile project is the rolling wave planning definition.

    Even though rolling wave planning may not be appropriate for every project, it might be for yours. An experienced and qualified team, project management software, and wave planning may be the perfect formula for your project's success. In this writing, we are going to be talking about rolling wave project planning. If you are in search of an excellent rolling wave planning PMP course, we suggest PMP online training which will help you to get a head-start on your learning process.

    What is Rolling Wave Planning? 

    As we discussed earlier, rolling wave management is a process of project planning which is done in waves. The incremental scheduling method, known as the rolling wave, uses gradual elaboration to plan the project as it progresses. This is frequently used when it is impossible to plan everything out beforehand.

    The project manager follows a cyclical process in which they fill in the schedule and details where there is clarity and keeps them generic where there is none, executes, re-plans where there is clarity, executes, and repeats this process until there is clarity at the conclusion. This helps work to proceed immediately and time to shine while future work packages and tasks are still being developed. Rolling wave planning is commonly utilized in highly uncertain projects where effective risk management is crucial.

    Rolling Wave Planning

    How is Rolling Wave Planning Crucial for Project Management?

    Rolling Wave planning in project management can have a number of significant benefits. Some of them are as follows: 

    • A clear image of the team's deliverables in accordance with the project timetable. 
    • Allows for recording essential project characteristics and data before work is done. 
    • Informs team members about the short-term project milestones they have. 
    • Improves staff responsibility and support from partners. 
    • Allows for route correction based on detected threats. 
    • Accelerates long-term goal accomplishment.  

    When To Use Rolling Wave Planning?

    It is necessary to realize when to employ a technique such as the rolling wave method. If you are not sure about when is rolling wave planning useful in a project, we have got your back. Some rolling wave planning example situations where you must use the rolling wave technique are as follows:

    • One to two-week assignments with very short schedules are best suited for rolling wave planning. 
    • It's also perfect for initiatives that don't start with all the necessary information. Teams find it challenging to employ traditional management techniques that depend on creating a structured process from the beginning when there are not enough facts available. As a substitute, the rolling wave planning method makes it easier for managers to change project details over time.  

    How Rolling Wave Planning Differs From Agile Sprints?

    Iterative methods, like agile springs and rolling wave planning, have a lot in common. In all situations, finished goods are produced, tested, and updated until the client is satisfied. Despite the similarity between these two approaches, there are a number of differences that prevent you from favoring one over the other. The following are some variations:

    ParametersRolling Wave PlanningAgile Sprints
    Work NatureWhen there is a strict delivery deadline to meet, it works best.Works best when there is a need to finish a certain project sprint by the timeframe set.
    UsageBest for organizing a list of responsibilities.They are used in less structured jobs.
    ConsiderationPriority goals are given greater consideration than long-term ones.Instead of tackling less urgent aims, it concentrates on the immediate term.
    HelpfulIt is helpful when the project's next tasks are uncertain.More appropriate when a project has a predetermined spending limit, milestones, and objectives
    Meeting DeadlinesAs it is process-oriented, it helps with finishing a task by the designated deadline.Better suited for initiatives where top priorities take precedence over the order of tasks.

    If you are interested in gathering knowledge about project management, we suggest Project Management certification programs. These courses have been designed to understand project management from scratch.

    Unleash your potential with our expert professional project management course. Develop the abilities to steer triumphant projects and propel your career forward.

    Rolling Wave Planning Process Steps

    Now that we have discussed what rolling wave planning is, have you been wondering how to do rolling wave planning? To execute your rolling wave project planning, there are specific steps that you must follow to achieve the proper results. Here we have listed some steps which will make the rolling wave planning process easier for you to understand.   

    Step 1: Identify Project's Requirements

    To assist you in planning the project phases, it's crucial to determine the project needs at the outset of a new project, together with other essential elements like the budget and timeframe. To discover the project's priorities, interact with essential project stakeholders like managers or clients.

    Ask them about their aspirations for the project's objectives and how they intend to measure its success. Finding the project needs can help you divide the project into phases, even though there may still be significant uncertainties, such as undiscovered hazards, in this step.  

    Step 2: Summarize Stages of Project

    Start by breaking the project into phases, but keep in mind that as the project moves along, some elements may alter, especially in later stages. The project's milestones, which are finished tasks that show progress toward the project's requirements, should be taken into consideration. A crucial step in producing a new product, for instance, can be the creation of a working prototype that can be presented to stakeholders.

    Divide the project into several phases using these benchmarks as a guide to enable the team to make steady progress toward the project objectives. Determine the projected project timetable by predicting the duration of each phase.

    Step 3: Plan Initial Step

    Take some time preparing for the first step of a project after outlining its anticipated phases. Make a thorough list of the tasks the team members must do during this phase. To make sure you're assigned functions in the first phase that might be prerequisites for later stages of a project, discuss the project requirements.

    For team members to know how much time they have for their tasks, assign tasks to them, and set clear deadlines. Give the team whatever resources they think they would require to accomplish their first tasks. 

    Step 4: Control Beginning Stages

    Manage team members' work when they begin the earliest phases to ensure they are adhering to the project requirements. Have daily planning sessions to review their progress and share ideas or suggestions to assist them with their work. Use these sessions to evaluate any alterations to the project plan, such as new project requirements or hazards that have recently been found.

    Team members can modify their work to reflect those changes with this communication. Keep records of the team's progress during these early stages and communicate it to managers or other stakeholders to demonstrate how the team is progressing with the project's objectives.

    Step 5: Continue to Prepare for Later Phases

    As the team works on its immediate objectives, continue making plans for subsequent project phases as you gain more knowledge. As you establish the correct steps for later stages, keep the project's budget, schedule, and scope in mind. Use the team's progress on the project dependencies to aid you with this long-term planning. As teams complete additional phases, repeating the process until the project's goals have been accomplished.  

    Step 6: Analyze Project's Plan

    Take time to assess the tactic after completing a project using a rolling wave implementation plan. Find out what the team enjoyed most about the procedure. You can also send an anonymous questionnaire to compel team members to give genuine comments. To assess the success of the planning technique, contrast the project's actual results with the anticipated outcomes. You can keep leading teams to good project outcomes by evaluating the project strategy to understand better where you have been productive and where you can continue improving.

    You can search for a rolling wave planning template online, which will help you better understand how it is done.

    Learning Loops


    Rolling Wave Planning Benefits

    By consistently accomplishing short-term tasks, the rolling wave planning program enables teams to continue to work toward project goals. There are lots of perks to this kind of planning, including:

    1. Accelerating Project Schedule

    Since teams can start to work on urgent tasks without waiting for a project manager to design each step of the project, this framework frequently reduces the project timetable. Teams could also work continuously without pausing between construction processes to conduct extra planning.

    2. Choosing Priorities

    Every team member profits from understanding the project's current priorities and the actions they can take to keep it moving forward. Team members can also evaluate how their immediate duties fit with the overarching objectives of a project.

    3. Promotion of Innovation

    Teams can modify their work using this approach as new information becomes available. With this strategy, teams are encouraged to use their ideas to solve issues and develop new methods to go on with the project's objectives.

    4. Establishing Transparency

    By presenting specific information on the short-term project phases, the rolling wave framework creates greater transparency between the project team and other vital stakeholders, such as managers.

    Top Cities where KnowledgeHut Conduct Project Management Certification Training Course Online

    Project Management Courses in LondonProject Management Courses in Singapore
    Project Management Courses in MelbourneProject Management Courses in Toronto
    Project Management Courses in SydneyProject Management Courses in Perth
    Project Management Courses in BangaloreProject Management Courses in Dubai
    Project Management Courses in MumbaiProject Management Courses in Brisbane


    If a project fulfills the requirements for rolling wave planning, go for it, but remember that this approach requires skilled team members to manage the job effectively. Rolling wave management can be seen as a link between traditional and agile techniques. It is excellent for projects with a prolonged lifespan, substantial changes, or uncertainties. If you want to learn in detail about what is rolling wave planning in project management? Then the courses listed above will help you get a better idea about project management using the rolling wave approach.

    If you are searching for a course that will help you learn about project management, we suggest the KnowledgeHut PMP online training. This course will help you have an in-depth understanding of the subject and help you learn from scratch. It is also a PMP progressive elaboration course which will help you understand progressive elaboration.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. What Does Rolling Wave Planning Mean?

    The iterative planning method known as the rolling wave uses incremental explication to plan the project as it progresses. This is utilized generally when it's impossible to plan everything out in advance.

    2. Which Is an Example of Rolling Wave Planning?

    If you intend to finish a task in eight months but only have insight for the first three, that is a basic illustration of a rolling wave approach. The first three months in this situation are arranged. The upcoming months could be planned as the project develops and more clarity is attained.

    3. What Is Rolling Wave Planning Safe?  

    It is the planning phase in waves as a project develops and knowledge pointing to the following steps becomes obvious. This methodology can be compared to agile software development methodologies like scrum for people who are experienced with software projects. 

    4. Why Would It Make Sense To Use Rolling Wave Planning?

    As final project parameters are still being sorted out and work has a minimal delivery time, rolling wave planning is exceptionally advantageous. Teams that create software using a variety of project management methodologies, notably rolling wave planning.

    5. Is Rolling Wave Planning Agile?

    Some project leaders embrace a scrum-like process that is more iterative. Others still favor agile software creation models that allow them to modify their project schedules. Rolling wave plan or wave planning are two terms that refer to this kind of agile project management. 

    6. What Is the Difference Between Progressive Elaboration and Rolling Wave Planning? 

    When we talk about progressive elaboration vs. rolling wave planning, rolling wave planning, is a type of progressive elaboration, specifics are prepared for work that are completed soon. Progressive elaboration is neither thorough nor precise. 


    Kevin D.Davis

    Blog Author

    Kevin D. Davis is a seasoned and results-driven Program/Project Management Professional with a Master's Certificate in Advanced Project Management. With expertise in leading multi-million dollar projects, strategic planning, and sales operations, Kevin excels in maximizing solutions and building business cases. He possesses a deep understanding of methodologies such as PMBOK, Lean Six Sigma, and TQM to achieve business/technology alignment. With over 100 instructional training sessions and extensive experience as a PMP Exam Prep Instructor at KnowledgeHut, Kevin has a proven track record in project management training and consulting. His expertise has helped in driving successful project outcomes and fostering organizational growth.

    Share This Article
    Ready to Master the Skills that Drive Your Career?

    Avail your free 1:1 mentorship session.

    Your Message (Optional)

    Upcoming Project Management Batches & Dates

    NameDateFeeKnow more
    Course advisor icon
    Whatsapp/Chat icon