The agile approach is different from the waterfall approach because it doesn’t depend on a strictly sequential set of phases. Instead, it is more flexible, breaking down projects into incremental tasks.
But to accomplish overarching objectives, any team using the Scrum framework to enact agile practices must still be clear when it has completed these increments.
This is where the definition of done (DoD) comes in.
What is the Definition of Done?
Knowing when you’ve completed something isn’t always as clear as you might expect. This is especially true of tasks that are part of a larger project.
What one person thinks is complete might seem, to another, to be lacking in certain details. This subjectivity can cause problems or even conflict within a team.
The agile approach has its origins in software development. It’s therefore helpful to look at what done means in this context.
In software development, DoD is when a software product meets all the conditions that will satisfy a user, user-team, consumer or system. If it meets these conditions, then this should ensure its quality.
But agile now has much broader applications than software development. It’s a mindset that works for different organisations and enterprises. It can deliver different outcomes for customers and users.
So, what does DoD mean for these teams?
The Team Defines Done
The short answer is that the team in any specific situation should define what done is. Set organisational standards may already exist, but generally, the team will be responsible for clarifying DoD.
This involves the shared understanding that is essential for how a team works together. Just as the team should confirm its goals and objectives, it should also agree on what conditions will define when it has concluded tasks successfully.
Therefore, the team must create its DoD as early as possible in the process. This should be before planning its first sprint event – the fixed-length burst of working activity.
However, creating a DoD is not always straightforward, particularly in the context of agile working.
Essentially, the definition of done will depend on the specific task you apply it to. If you boil it down to its essence, DoD should be a way of the team reminding itself of what it needs to do before it may complete a task.
How DoD Works in Scrum
DoD promotes transparency, giving everyone involved a shared understanding of what work is completed during an increment.
The team works on items included in the product backlog list managed by the product owner. The team will regularly refine the items in this list, reviewing and updating their status.
The team will complete several sprint goals to complete an increment. Once the increment is complete, it should meet the specific criteria that mark it as done. When this happens, the product owner can remove it from the backlog.
Where multiple Scrum teams are working on a product, they must define and comply with an agreed DoD. This ensures consistency and accurate recording of progress towards ultimate end goals for products and projects.
What sort of work does this involve? This depends on the organisation using the Scrum framework.
Products can be spreadsheets, documents or other forms of documentation or prototyping.
The important thing is that the framework is applicable across a variety of business models and industries.
Can You Change the Definition of Done?
The short answer is yes. The flexibility of the agile approach allows for the team to keep reviewing DoD.
They shouldn’t be redefining it for every sprint, but it can require a degree of adaptation.
This is about striking the right balance between keeping things flexible and retaining a clear set of criteria that enables the team to complete a task. In some instances, this has led to people questioning whether DoD should really exist at all.
However, it does play a clear and vital part in applying the Scrum framework. The Scrum Guide highlights the most vital aspects of DoD:
- It is a formal description of when increment meets certain quality measures that the specific product needs
- It gives everyone a shared knowledge of the work completed as part of the increment
- Without DoD, you cannot release an item from the product backlog
- All Scrum teams involved should follow DoD as a minimum, appropriate standard for a project and conform to it.
For more information about applying the Scrum framework, or to find out about the agile approach to working, please contact Simple Progression.