The best project managers know the devil is in the details and communication between team members is the oil in the engine that makes project delivery both fun and efficient.
Defining when a task or a work effort is complete may seem like too much communication (or detail, or effort) to some, but it can have a huge impact on timely project delivery. So what is the definition of done and why is it so important...?
Definition of done
So first what is the definition of done? Definition of done is quite literally—defining when a task or work effort is complete. Its usefulness is best demonstrated by using an example.
Definition of done example
For example, let’s look at the task we will call “Test Tensile Strength Coupons.” At face value, the tensile strength testing task seems pretty straight forward. The job is assigned to Jane and she proceeds to tensile test ten coupons -- pulling them until they break.
Jane completes the testing and in the following day’s daily standup meeting Jane declares the task is complete and is ready for handoff to Jack. It’s now Jack’s turn to review the tensile testing. Jack, assuming Jane completed it, asks for the report.
Jane however didn’t realize she needed to complete a report. As a result another day passes until the task is complete.
The result - one day lost.
It’s obvious from this very brief example that if the team had taken one minute to define what it meant for the task to be done up front, they would have avoided an unnecessary one day delay in the project timeline.
Definition of Done Exercise
When is the definition of done important? In order to ensure your projects are moving forward as efficiently as possible, we think it’s always important to define done—it simply gets everyone on the same page. However defining when a task is done becomes most important in these four cases:
- Work is being handed off between two team members (to make sure deliverables are clear)
- Work and duration estimates would grow significantly by being clear about the scope of the task
- Extra unnecessary work might be avoided by being clear about the needs
- Tasks are (or may be) on the critical chain where every minute of delay on a task becomes a minute delay to the end date of the project.
What it comes down to is that taking an extra few seconds to define done can easily save you hours or days on your projects.
Check out this 9-minute video to see the massive impact one day delays can have on your project timeline. See how Playbook resolves for these issues in Part 2.