Definition Of Done (When Is Your Team Done?)


Listening to some vinyls while I contemplated what to write about this week I had quite the lightbulb moment. I had just put on The Doors a little while before I started my brainstorming and then there it was. Jim Morrison was singing specifically to me about this weeks topic. One of the band’s more popular songs “The End” came on and here I was listening to the lyrics, “This is the end beautiful friend. This the end, my only friend, the end. Of our elaborate plans, the end.”

The words “the end” got me thinking about the definition of done when it comes to Scrum. Granted, the context of this song is not about Scrum but I found it to be an interesting association nonetheless. How do people know they have come to the end of a task if they don’t know what the end is? Though it seems the most practical thing for companies to specify or rather define what it means to be finished with a project, quite often this specification is neglected on both a team and individual level.

Taking the extra time to start off by clearly defining what team members are responsible for completing can save not only time but in some cases a project. What does “done” mean to you? What does “done” mean to the team? These two questions are critical to quality Scrum project practices. It is important for these two questions to be expanded upon. Drawing from Morrison’s lyrics again, he references “elaborate plans”. This is applicable to Scrum projects because they are elaborate and detailed. Both sprint planning and the product backlog, help reinforce this definition regularly and pinpoint what “the end” is.

Now, as previously mentioned it is not just necessary to have a individual definition but a team definition of done. However, in order to establish this team definition individuals must detail what it is they are doing. With team members, in many cases, coming from different professional backgrounds it is easy to not have an understanding of the work timespan and/or appreciation for the type of work other team members do because it is unrelatable. As a team there are a lot of things to consider. For example, all code needs to be unit tested, or peer reviewed. Or, all work has to be functionally tested. Your definition could include documentation, wire frames, or test cases. Communication is key! Sharing these details makes the team more knowledgeable, stronger, and far more efficient. The team can be your friend, if you allow it to be.

Use whatever word you like, whether it is “done”, “complete”, “finished”, or “the end” but just make sure to define it. A word is only as powerful as the meaning behind it.

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