The definition of done - workplace and personal life


“Getting things done” – is a phrase we hear every day, whether we talk about software development or personal life. But what does it actually mean? The Agile definition of done is a collection of criteria the team must complete for a project to be considered “done.”

Our colleague, Sorin M., project manager in our automotive department, explains how important it is to establish from the beginning what “done” means before you start working on a project or a personal goal.

You’ll see that in some situations, as in art, even when not finishing a task, you can consider it done, which is way better than overdoing it.


The definition of done. What does it actually mean?


“Is it done?” A phrase we hear every day, whether we talk about work or personal life, but have you ever had a deep thought about its significance? What does actually mean to be done? 

According to English dictionary, if something is done, or you are done with it, it is finished, or you have finished doing, using it, etc.  

One thing is sure, what is done for me, may not be done for you or more over than that, what I consider to be done in a moment, I may reconsider later. 

Those of you involved in the business of application development may be familiar to the definition of done in Agile. For those who are not, the Agile definition of done is a collection of criteria that must be completed for a project to be considered “done”. It is basically a checklist used by Scrum teams to create a shared understanding of what is required to make a product releasable. So, by checking every step fixed in advance, when you tick the final box, you will know it’s done. Easy peasy! What I am trying to say is:  Wouldn’t it be easier for you to apply this principle to your personal life? All you need to do is to establish from the very start a collection of criteria that must be completed before you consider it done. This definition of done will help you to break the vicious circle and to focus on new projects or personal life objectives. 


Teamwork: the definition of done comes before getting things done


For example, in our team, this is a collaborative process. All team members are included in defining what ‘done’ means for our project (and will be applicable for every feature). Generally, it means that code is written, it is documented, code review has been performed, build has been made and all the tests for the feature have passed. After that, a checklist for these activities is made to facilitate the process. Finally, we create a final check to see that the definition will be in accordance with our customer needs and values. It may sound strange, but let’s say that one of our customer’s core values is ‘security and privacy’. In this case, maybe a security check for every feature needs to be added in the checklist to make sure our client reputation will not suffer.

That being said, no matter the situation, you have to create a definition of done before you start working at that task/project/personal goal. For this to happen you have to determine right from the start the criteria and the outcome you want to reach. The result may still not satisfy you, but the point for a project, for example, is to be released, not to be ‘perfect’. I am not saying to settle for less, what I mean is that you have to set up a limit, otherwise you can smoothly run to an extreme. You may never be satisfied with the result you’ve achieved, it can always be better but at one time you have to stop and decide it is done. Continuing with the dictionary definition of done, the term is used to also describe a food cooked thoroughly. By drawing a parallel between a steak and a goal, overdoing them both, will make you lose all the flavors.




Always improving something to be finally done, may be constructive …until it’s not. It’s so simple to become anxious about something not being done in your head. Probably you are asking “what needs to be done?” (isn’t it ironic?)

Not doing this and remaining stuck in a “Sagrada familia” concept can become frustrating. Does the fact that the church is unfinished (not done) makes it less attractive? The answer is undisputed: Not at all! It is still a magnum opus, a masterpiece defined exactly by the fact that it is not done.

All in all, starting from the definition of done, you can ask yourself: is it done or are you done?

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