Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Done and Dusted

In a recent retrospective our team dug out our Definition of Done and gave it a good review. We ended up removing a number of unnecessary items. This got me thinking about what is Done?

In previous places that I have worked the Definition of Done was a long check-list of things that had to have been completed and verified. Is this the best that a philosophy that claims to value "individuals and interactions over processes and tools" can come up with? This got me thinking...

Isn’t Done actually just the state when the team agree that the story is complete? Why should it need to be any more than that?

Done: The state when all team members agree that the story is complete

We could expand this slightly to define the roles that the different team members play in this definition:

  • Developers agree that the code is complete, tested and refactored to an acceptable standard
  • QAs agree that the acceptance criteria for the story has been met, that the functionality works and that they have not found any defects introduced by the new feature
  • BAs and POs agree that the feature meets the business objectives for the story
  • (we could also add points for DBAs, Ops etc, as needed)

So, if we accept that the team can decide for themselves when something is Done, why do we end up with long checklists, often including a whole range of metrics? It could be because 'management' aren’t able to release their need to monitor everything and produce nice reports. However, it’s more likely a matter of trust.

Teams are just not trusted to self-organise and make good decisions. If the team say that a story is Done then for many managers there is an immediate suspicion that the team is not telling the truth and is trying to cut corners. They then require that there is concrete proof that this is not the case. This is despite the fact that a group of professionals all happen to agree that it is Done. It just doesn’t make sense.

If the team has never released a story as Done when it clearly wasn’t then why doubt they will suddenly stop doing this in the future? Show trust in the team that is delivering completed work.

If the team are marking stories as Done when they clearly aren’t then there is a much more serious problem with the team and they probably either need replacing, mentoring or a firm guiding hand. Adding a requirement to satisfy a long checklist and provide associated metrics will never improve a bad team.

As with many things agile, it’s not about the process: it’s about changing attitudes; it’s about trusting teams to deliver the best solutions possible; it’s about not bogging the teams down with unnecessary controls.

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