The Definition of Done in Scrum is a super powerful artefact to create transparency around what needs to be delivered to consider a unit of work ‘done’. Meaning, no more work is needed on this item for it to potentially deliver value through a customer release. The concept helps with forecasting, increased transparency and fosters collaboration around the minimum amount of work needed to deliver value at high quality.

The concept I teach in training or when I am consulting is the following. It’s about overall quality, stuff that we have to do for each backlog item before it is releasable and not incurring technical debt, NFR’s might be candidates, documentation, verification, etc. Something we can actually put on paper as a sort of checklist to verify that stuff we started work on can actually be delivered. 

In practice however, there are often people using a DoD ‘field’ in their backlog tool or a concept as part of their user story. What I generally find people actually put in this field or consider to be part of this Definition of Done, comes down to either a list of tasks needed to be done which contains all specific tasks for this item, or a simple list of acceptance criteria (only verification).

To prevent confusion, I advise to call stuff like it is intended. When you intend to use Scrum as a framework for your situation, have a DoD that provides general transparency on what needs to be done to create a shippable increment for each backlog item. Something that ensures a common understanding of quality, that helps make transparent what the development team needs to deliver for the increment to create value. 

An additional win from this approach is that you reduce duplicate ‘documentation’ because you don’t have to include all the general stuff in each user story ‘document’ or tool-entry. 

Next time you encounter a situation where people talk about, ‘oh thats in the DoD of story X’ or similar expressions, please help them learn what a Definition of Done is intended to do and how to prevent this duplication of information (and subsequent wasteful work and loss of transparency) that does the opposite of what the DoD is intended for. 

Previously published on sjoerdly.tumblr.com.

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