Definition of Done: Who Should Define Done?
Who defines your product team’s definition of “done” that you apply against every feature or story?
Having a clear definition of done is a basic element of a successful product management process. Yet, only 29.4% of respondents indicated that a collective decision by the product team established this important definition. It is disturbing that 7.4% of respondents say their product teams have not defined “done” and their companies have not designated anyone to define it.
Definition of Done from a Statistical Point of View
We cross-correlated these results with teams that meet or exceed organizational expectations. The first result that stood out was a distinct negative correlation between winging it and team productivity. That is, teams that don’t define “done” don’t perform well.
Second, our data definitively shows that it matters who creates the done definition. Organizations in which team members themselves create a clear definition of done are more likely to outperform their counterparts: product teams that have their product owner draft their definition of done perform most effectively closely followed by product teams that develop their definition of done collectively.
There was no effectiveness correlation to having a manager outside the team (whether “management”, the product manager, or engineering management) dictate a team’s definition of done. We think the practice of establishing a definition of done within the team makes team members hold themselves accountable to their done definition and to each other, with any benefit of management’s standardizing a definition outweighed by the demotivating effect of
management handing it down as an edict.
Clearly, defining done matters. And when a member (the product owner) or all members of the team (collectively) do the defining, teams are likely to deliver at the highest levels of performance.
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