Ambiguity over what the word “done” means can lead to confusion among your employees, stifle progress, and derail potential success. However, when everyone on your team understands the definition of “done,” they will pull in the same direction and hold one another accountable.
A clear definition of "done" will play an instrumental role in cultivating consistent success across your organization. Every employee grasping what “done” means ensures that your employees pull in the same direction and hold one another accountable. It creates a shared language that builds a transparent culture and benchmarks quality.
However, ambiguity over what the word “done” means can lead to confusion among your employees, stifle progress, and derail potential success. When your teams understand and agree on the tasks that need completing before delivering the work, you limit the scope for over-engineering and cut out inferior results. Understanding "done" can literally transform your business.
Asking employees to update you on their progress welcomes answers like “almost finished.” You might even hear “done.” On the surface, these replies soothe your anxiety and get you to move on, trusting in their judgment, but they’re redundant statements. A task might well be finished in your employee’s eyes, but that doesn’t always mean the work is completed.
When you have not agreed on what "done" means or what tasks that make up a finished work unit, it could, and often does, mean just about anything.
Successful projects depend on everybody knowing what one unit of work entails and understanding how the parts fit into the whole. With this level of understanding, you’ve erected a framework that guides your workforce towards the finish line. It is vital to create a series of open and shut workflows that lead to consistent, high-quality, timely outputs.
Everything goes better when done with others, and processes run smoother when your teams understand expectations before starting projects. Sharing a common vision and agreeing on the definition of done before passing the finish line should ensure your workforce’s accountability.
With this common understanding, teams can concentrate on innovation and execution. Without ambiguity, everyone can embrace their complexity and feel confident that the work unit is fit for release once the agreed-upon steps are completed.
There are additional benefits to breaking work into measurable units. It enables you to make calculations, estimations, and decisions based on accurate information. Each unit equates to an average amount of time, making a whole raft of things easier to manage. You can determine the resources needed, cost projects better, build stronger relationships with clients, and much more.
If you have a project that requires delivery to a client, such as a product, it requires a very clear definition of “done”. Understanding what constitutes “done” provides a series of tasks that your team will need to complete before announcing the product as ready. Without this process, there’s a good chance your team will miss something, which may seem small at the time, but could significantly impact the overall quality of the finished product. When you define “done,” you ensure quality is baked in along with the added benefit of combating project apathy and perfectionism.
Your management team is responsible for leading the conversation over the Definition of Done, but everybody has a role in deciding what makes up a complete work unit. It’s a collaborative exercise. Without every stakeholder’s input, you’ll struggle to get universal acceptance of what constitutes “done.”
Start by engaging your entire team in the decision-making process. People usually have their own ideas of what must be done, highlighting the importance of getting everyone on the same page. Engaging the whole team creates transparency around the reasoning behind the agreed-upon set of requirements, winning the support you need.
Once you’ve settled on the definition of "done", you should create a checklist that notes every element in the work unit for both delivery and innovation. Teams must complete every item on the list before labeling the work "completed" and handing it over. Also, be sure to embed your checklists into the workflows to mitigate any danger of people forgetting to tick every box. Things have a habit of circling back around and eating resources when every item on the checklist hasn’t been ticked.
Lack of clarity over the interpretation of “done” can induce harmful symptoms associated with poor quality and lack of top to bottom accountability. It can cause friction and confusion, impact employee relationships, and force uncomfortable conversations with clients. Understanding what “done” means helps ensure that your employees pull in the same direction and hold one another accountable. It creates a shared language that builds a transparent culture and forges quality. You can literally transform your business with the definition of "done”.