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Definition of Done

“It’s 90% done”. How many times have we heard (or said) that before in our careers? While this specific phrase may inspire hope or excitement for some project managers (“wow, it’s only 10% away from being done!”) - it shouldn’t.

At the outset of your project it’s very important to establish among your team what “done” really means and what your expectations are of each team member when reporting their progress. Personally I don’t really care for getting a specific % complete report from a team member. What I’m more interested in is how much more time (calendar, effort or both) they need to complete the task. That is the real meat of defining progress. Measuring this combined with actuals to-date against original estimates will give you a far better picture than a % complete report that is based likely on a hunch by a team member.

I’ve been there before – as a new developer somewhat fresh out of school, when pressed for a progress report by my boss, I panicked and pulled a number out of the sky and said 75% complete when knowing that I had no factual basis for that number – it was a best-guess (which was not accurate).

Getting your team to understand a common definition of “done” is important. It’s not a difficult thing to do, nor a tough conversation to have. It simply involves setting your criteria for what “done” really is. Example criteria can include things such as:

  1. Coding is complete and checked in/merged

  2. All unit tests ran and passed

  3. Code has been reviewed and passed

  4. System tests have been conducted and passed

  5. Considered demonstration-worthy to the client

Setting the definition of done is the first (and likely biggest) step. The next step is adhering to it. Making sure your team is sticking to what is truly considered “done” can be a daunting task but is essential to building up the cultural awareness and tendencies necessary to instill these definitions.

There are many plausible definitions of what “done” really is among project teams and team members. It’s crucial to make sure that your team understands the importance of establishing a consistent standard of “done” and making sure that they are sticking to it. By establishing these standards, you are greatly increasing the consistency and quality of your deliverables at virtually no cost.

How can we help your team? Let's talk!

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