Definition of Done (Exercise)

How to facilitate a DoD?

DoD (Definition of Done) is a crucial part of quality in development in Agile teams. It defines conditions that the thing ‘card/story’ or ‘feature’ must satisfy before it’s ready to launch or is called done. DoD also describes the team’s responsibilities towards quality. Think of it as a checklist of conditions something needs to meet in order to be called ‘done’. The common mistake is although the DoD has been created, it becomes outdated. The ‘Definition of Done’ exercise is a straightforward way to update the team’s DOD and different level releases of DoD. For instance story level DoD, feature level DoD, release level DoD and Epic level DoD.

Why is it important? If you are estimating and sizing stories the DoD is taken into account by the team on how much effort, complexity, big and risky it is to complete the story. Without the DoD there is no standard understanding of what the team’s agreed Done-ness criteria.

The first step is to list the current DoD rules or conditions to call a story ‘done’.

  1. The team brainstorms and writes down the criteria (condition) to post-it notes, one criteria to one post-it note.
  2. The team attaches post-it notes to a Definition of Done 4×4 matrix. Clusters the ones which are similar (de-duplicate) and rewrite it together with the team. The Definition of Done matrix’s four categories are;
    • ‘Using + Important’
    • ‘Not using + Important’
    • ‘Using + Unnecessary’
    • ‘Not using + Unnecessary’
  3. The Team negotiates together how every post-it note should be stuck to the matrix. After post-it notes are attached, the team creates possible new DoD rules and applies them to the matrix as well.
  4. The team collects all the post-it notes from ‘in use and important’ and ‘not in use and important’ categories and updates the DoD.

This exercise outcome is the team’s shared understanding of the quality, and an updated version of DoD or creating a new DoD. This can be used again at the different level for Features, Releases and Epics.

Congratulations! You now have a Definition of Done!

Using the DoD. The team should try to hold every story to the DoD and there may be some exceptions to this rule made through team consensus including Product Owner.

The fact you have DoD is completed does not mean you cannot change it. Try to make a point of revisiting the DoD every now and then in the Sprint Retrospective meetings. If there are conditions criteria your team is not able to consistently meet, discuss it and work out if it should be removed from the DoD. The team may want to add more things to the DoD.