What does it mean to you?

I thought today on the importance of certain words in an organization, like when people say “We’re DONE” what do they mean? When they say “This project was a SUCCESS”, what exactly do they mean by “success”? These are important “words” or phrases that any company must define clearly for it to run effectively.

Along these lines I found two nice podcasts on hanselminutes.com, one entitled Lean Software Development with Tom and Mary Poppendieck  which has a good approach to defining success; and then What is Done? – A Conversation with Scrum Co-Creator Ken Schwaber  which talks about what it is to be done. Both of these are well worth the listen.


This is always a highly contentious and relative subject, what does a team mean when it’s DONE? This sort of popped into my head a while ago when I was contemplating how a person would go about making sure a team is actually performing as best they could, without interfering. My question was this, because Scrum is essentially a management process (and yes I know, its not only a process but also a “way of life” and a “mind shift”), and not an engineering process, a “green” team may not realize that a solid engineering process was missing from their way of working? Would it be your responsibility to point this out and prevent future technical debt building up, or should you leave it to the team to inevitably “fail” and attempt to fix the problem then?

Based on the input I had to this question I believe that part of the ScrumMasters role of ensuring process was being adhered to was to make sure the team had a well defined definition of “DONE”, and not only that they adhered to it but that they attempted to improve on it during retrospectives. “DONE” then becomes the instrument by which the team improves HOW they do things and can include good engineering practices like continuous integration, unit testing and essentially anything the team believes will improve the quality of their shippable product.

Along these lines I found a great article on the Scrum Alliance website by Mitch Lacey titled “How Do We Know When We Are Done“, which includes an exercise a team can go through to help them define their “DONE” list. I haven’t tried this yet, so I cannot speak from experience, but in principal it sounds good and I’m hoping to try it at the next available opportunity.