Rolling Wave Planning : The Complete Guide

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May 04, 2022

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Rolling wave planning works best for a project that doesn’t have a clear end goal in mind. Strategic management is another name for this process, which can be typically performed depending upon the type and how often it varies.

There are both long and short term considerations in project management planning. When you start preparing, don't just plan for a limited period. It would help if you planned for a few months at least, or even years-long in advance. A traveller who has done their research and prefers to prepare with time may find it helpful to make a plan.

To ensure that your product development projects go smoothly, you must maintain a proper schedule for timely planning and routine objectives. Long-term planning is conducted at a professional level. 

During short-term strategic approach Rolling Wave Planning (RWP) training, the information is gathered. Even the most inexperienced project leader can benefit from utilising this strategy.

What Does the Term "Rolling Wave Planning" Mean?

The PMP approach uses the Rolling Wave Plan. Your project may not be ready to be designed in depth until after the procedure is finished; this includes stages like test and installation. As a result, you'll have to reassess your activities and tasks in light of the initiative results. This technique is referred to as rolling wave planning.

Rather than waiting until the previous phase is complete before arranging the next, PMP adopted a practice called rolling wave planning. PMP Certification Training is appropriate if you wish to advance your professional career through PMP certification.

Project Scheduling using Rolling Wave Planning

The rolling wave approach is most effective when the following conditions exist:

  • There is a strict deadline for the completion of the project.
  • Teams should concentrate on short-term objectives.
  • A lack of clarity in the project's objectives, budgets, and schedules
  • Timely completion of the sequential and process-oriented activity is essential.

Examples of Rolling Wave Planning

The rolling wave plan method is particularly useful when performing a project with significant uncertainties and dividing the work into different time frames. In this rolling wave planning example, a project is supposed to be done in eight months, but the first three months of the project are clear. Thus, the project is scheduled for the first 3 months in this condition. As the project proceeds, the project manager can plan the subsequent months because of the clarification.

The rolling wave method utilises progressive analysis, in which work packages are processed in greater detail as the project progresses. However, it is critical to remember that rolling wave planning need not automatically absolve the project manager of the responsibility to construct a list of objectives and expectations. Achievements and major concepts assist members in knowing why so rolling wave methodology is utilised and where to anticipate as the process progresses.

Steps in Rolling Wave Planning

Rolling wave planning in project management allows you to be creative. However, managements have to reconcile innovation and scheduling.

To be innovative, a program should have a defined structure, and it must adhere to all the program's parameters. Rolling wave planning is advantageous to project teams since it brings together the best combination. Ensure that you follow straightforward measures when preparing for your rolling waves:

Step 1: Identify potential vulnerabilities

Identifying risks and establishing a strategy to mitigate their effects is where the project manager begins the process. To ensure that all of the project's criteria are fulfilled, they will have consultations to go through deadlines and task assignments.

Discuss the project's needs, deliverables, and timescales. Then, allocate the team members their specific tasks and functions following the meeting.

Step 2: Outline the project's objectives

Set up a timeframe, budget, and the tools you need with your team. The project team establishes a timeframe and project budget and finalises the tools necessary to finish the activity.

Using a WBS (work breakdown structure) is an excellent solution in this situation. The WBS will be beneficial at this time when you establish the project's tasks and deliverables. First, the overall project is subdivided into smaller components known as horizons. This can be depicted graphically using a Gantt chart.

Step 3: Devise a plan for the waves

The initial iteration or wave should be meticulously planned. The task previously accomplished in the initial wave is being complemented with further details. Teams simplify the wave's budget, timetable, and resources by reducing waste and duplication. The wave's schedule, budget, and resources should be streamlined. The project manager must begin planning the next wave of work as soon as the current wave is completed.

Step 4: Establish the project's baseline 

A baseline is established for the project's scope, budget, and schedule. This guarantees that project effort and resources are used most efficiently and feasible.

Step 5: Launch the initial wave

The initial wave commences. Teams begin work on their allocated duties, whereas the project manager keeps a close eye on their productivity and work progress. The emphasis is on eliminating uncertainty in the project's subsequent stages.

Step 6: Repeat waves until targets are met

Iterations or waves of development continue till the project's objectives are met. After completing the project, teams analyse in-depth to find what succeeded and what did not. This review assists them in preparing for the next tasks.

When is Rolling Wave Planning Effectively for Project Management?

Wave planning is an excellent technique for certain types of projects. However, how do you know if this is the best approach for your particular project? Rolling wave planning PMP is advantageous in the following circumstances:

1. Unknown project objectives

A rolling wave strategic plan is a good option for projects with undetermined objectives or timetables. Rolling wave planning simplifies project risk management. It gives you the flexibility to act decisively if a concern evolves into a risk.

To avoid a project being derailed, you can use rolling wave planning to handle any rapidly arising concerns.

2. Planned projects that lack relevant information

The rolling wave planning process is most effective for projects if project scheduling data is few and execution becomes difficult. Rolling wave planning is appropriate for software development initiatives.

3. Proposals for research and development

However, other sectors and projects can take advantage of the rolling wave concept's iterative project planning.

For instance, most complex research and development initiatives are not structured to produce comprehensible outcomes. Rather than that, these projects are designed to examine and develop new products/services.

4. Advanced initiatives

Rolling wave planning is used for any project that involves high-level innovation. These project teams need to be able to adapt to change quickly and take advantage of any opportunities that may come up that they didn't know about.

Innovative projects are not necessarily linear in their approach and require greater adaptability to unexpected changes. However, this does not mean that a project's success will be affected by a lack of control.

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The advantages of Using Rolling Wave Planning:

Even for project management, there are numerous advantages to the rolling wave strategy plan, which can be shown by having all the information needed to plan future phases in compliance with the successful completion of the process phases. The rolling wave planning process is broken down into four steps, each highlighting the advantages of this methodology for professionals. The following are some of the advantages of rolling wave planning:

  • Ensuring that the important aspects of the planned task are identified and documented.
  • Maintaining a high level of communication among team members in the near term.
  • Obtaining buy-in and establishing responsibility
  • Enables the team to improve course when new information becomes available and new concerns become available.
  • Makes long-term planning easier
  • Ensuring that the team's daily emphasis is on the appropriate objectives
  • Keeps the team focused on short-term objectives, making necessary course corrections.
  • Shorten turnaround times by allowing productive activities to begin without requiring all activity details to be defined in advance.
  • Eliminating downtime during the course of a project for extra planning
  • Promotes foresight and adaptability
  • Ideal for research & development initiatives, high-technology applications, and inventions
  • Exceptional for projects with fluctuating capacity


Globally, there is a growing market for PMP-certified professionals. PMP online training institutes help students develop their analytical skills and project execution ability. When we are still in the early stages of strategic planning, and the information is less specified, work activities may be divided to the available level of detail. When something is deployed, it's being introduced to a new setting. The process of development is iterative and innovative. 

Rolling wave planning comes in handy in this situation. Rolling Wave Strategy is a form of strategic planning that occurs each week or twice, depending on the project's stage and how things change. Rolling Wave Planning keeps the team focused on short-term objectives, changing course as necessary. Completing the online PMP course, while working full-time, will increase your chances of clearing the PMP exam on your first effort if you're an expert with project management experience.

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