Defining “Done” one of the most important aspects of lean and agile project management

Why is such a simple activity as defining DONE so important?

• It gives us the ability to close the stories, work packages, sprints and ultimately the project based on agreed criteria.
• Good acceptance criteria defined before the work is started removes ambiguity and misunderstanding that may occur later in the project.
• Completing what we set out to do is something that gives satisfaction and helps one to remain motivated.

Each stakeholder in a project will all have a different interpretation of what is “Done” simply because each individual will have a different understanding if the definition is not written down.

Interpretation on what is agreed can and most likely will differ based on the context of the discussion, when one requirement is discussed several times this will result in differing interpretations. What we may accept as being “Done” today, may not be “Done” tomorrow. This is simply because our perceptions will be influenced by new events and understandings. By defining and documenting what we mean by “Done” we can be more consistent in our interpretation of “Done” for each deliverable.

What does the definition of “Done” do?

  • The definition of “Done” explicitly states how an activity or job will be measured to confirm it has been completed.

  • What can we use the definition of “Done” for?

  • Improve communication and collaboration.
  • Remove ambiguity
  • Keep focus on the job at hand
  • As a means for defining finished work that can be reported as finished, managing progress on the burndown chart or critical chain path
  • As a building block for making an organisation more lean and agile

  • Defining DONE at Project Product Level

    With Product Based Planning as described here, we can define “Done” at the Project Product Description, Component Product Description and at User Scenario and Acceptance Test Level. At each of these levels we use acceptance criteria to describe “Done” and we also allocate responsibility for who approves a job as been done.
    The project sponsor can define his or her interpretation of “done” in the project mandate so that from the very beginning of a project we have an understanding as to what sort of capability is expected from the project output.

    Defining DONE at Sprint Level (For those that use Scrum)

    If you are using Sprint planning the team can agree with the product owner what “Done” means for the sprint. This gives the flexibility to adapt what is considered “Done” for each sprint, while still maintaining structure and discipline.

    Getting regular sign-off

    Getting regular sign-off on completed deliverables during the project will confirm that what is being created fulfils agreed expectations. This reduces the chance of the project output being rejected when the final acceptance testing is completed.

    For project management products & deliverables

    Using standard work processes will help people to understanding what type of output is expected from each process. When the relevant person delivers the process outputs and they are approved then they know they are done with that work process or series of processes.