In Agile’s project management, especially in Scrum’s method, there is an element called Definition of Done (or DOD).
You don’t know what it is? Do not worry, this article will explain it all! Following this reading, you will be able to implement a Definition Of Done with your teams as well as judge its quality.
I – What is the Definition Of Done?
A kitchen’s story
Everybody has already lived this situation or a similar one. You are cooking your favorite chocolate’s cake. 🍫 The plate is in the oven, the kitchen is cleared and the dishes are cleaned. You announce that your cake is done.
Right this time, a foodie shows up to enjoy a piece of your last work, and there he is, disappointed. The cake isn’t cooked yet! Then come this question: “Why did you say that the cake was done if we can’t eat it?”.
📢 So, do you see what is the DOD now? It is simply the Definition of what we call done, the name is quite transparent!
The Scrum Guide Definition
If we leave the kitchen to focus on Agile’s project management, the goal of the Definition Of Done is, for a group of people, to agree on what defined an User Story as done, and allows the team to move it into the Done column in the Kanban Board.
The Scrum Guide characterizes the Definition Of Done in the following words:
“When a Product Backlog item or an Increment is described as “Done”, everyone must understand what “Done” means. Although this may vary significantly per Scrum Team, members must have a shared understanding of what it means for work to be complete, to ensure transparency. This is the definition of “Done” for the Scrum Team and is used to assess when work is complete on the product Increment.”
The value of the DOD
Indeed, “done” does not have the same signification for all. Each person possesses its own definition! If we take back the example of our chocolate’s cake, “done” can describe several states of your recipe:
🥣 The oven is at the right temperature,
🍽️ The kitchen is cleaned,
🎂 The cake can be eaten!
Here, the problem raised by the non-understanding around the definition of “done” is not dramatic. The gourmand will only have to wait a bit to taste the cake.
📢 However, keeping inside a team a grey area around the characteristics allowing to determine if a task is done can create a lot of problems in complex project management.
II – The indispensable ingredients
An answer for a fundamental problem
To ease the team’s work, it is mandatory to adopt rules and common definitions, such as the DOD!
Let’s take another example: one of your teammate is asking if your last development is done, because he needs it to fulfill its own task. You answer him that yes, it is done. However, when he looks at it, he points at you the fact that the documentation hasn’t been updated on this development. It is, by extension, unusable for the project’s follow-up.
This headache reminds you of something? If your team can’t agree on what is called “done”, this situation can generate several internal problems, impacting the overall project’s progress.
📢 To remedy this situation, you can ask the following questions:
📌 Is this update on the documentation a part of the team’s Definition Of Done?
📌 Does the actual DOD met the project needs and the team reality?
It is important to notice that the Definition Of Done is not frozen in time and has to evolve in parallel of your project. You can add steps, or even remove the one with no more value!
A list of necessary steps
The DOD is a list of required steps your team has to pass to consider the work as done. In order to match as close as possible to the team’s, the project’s and the client’s needs, this list has to be written with all the team’s project members. The key word of the Definition Of Done is transparency!
📢 Our advice: during the first release of your Definition Of Done, don’t overload your team with an insurmountable number of tasks. To begin with, try to see with them which are the fundamental ones to consider an User Story as done. Then, during the first Sprint’s retrospective, you can check once again your DOD, and add or modify the elements if the team thinks it is necessary!
Here are some examples of steps that can be found in a Definition Of Done:
1. Your work has been reviewed by another teammate.
2. The User Story is documented.
3. The acceptance’s tests are done.
📢 The DOD’s steps have to match with your project! Of course, they might differ regarding the product nature or the technologies implemented.
III – Conclusion
You have got it, there is no universal Definition Of Done, you need to build your own. There are actually as much DOD as teams or projects! However, it does apply to all project’s typology, from computing to kitchen matters (our example with the chocolate’s cake is the obvious proof).
📢 The good recipe is the one matching the team’s and project’s needs.
You can use as a starting point the question “What are you implying with an User Story done?”. By taking into account the feedback of all the teams members, you will make from your Definition Of Done a powerful artifact that will provide transparency as well as a good understanding for all the project’s length.