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Must “Do The Edges” Or It’s Not Done

Are your task's edges ragged?

Are your task's edges ragged?

The lawn was out of hand.  I skipped mowing one week for some reason and now it was far too long.  I attacked with the mower and with a desire to get the chore over as quick as possible.

Now with the grass cut low, I began to coil the mower’s extension cord and noticed the lawn’s edges.  They were ragged and unkempt.  I had failed to bring the edger from the back yard storage and was reluctant to take the additional 10 minutes or so to retrieve the edger and complete the task.  Besides, I had mowed the lawn, right?

“The lawn looks fine to passers-by,” I rationalized.  “Only people looking closely or actually visiting the house will notice the ragged edges of green.”

Declaration of Done Too Soon

Many times in design we are anxious to be done with a task or story.  It’ll look better on the burndown chart or on the task board if we call it done right then and fix up the “ragged edges” later.  We rationalize:

“It’s done and tested, I’ll check it into the repository and build system tomorrow.” Or “We should make sure the interface is the same as the previous version but nothing should have changed, so, let’s go to PCB.”

In agile practices, it is acceptable to define done as “just enough” to satisfy a story.  This is good since it prevents waste creating lots of details that have a high probability of changing.  But changing the definition of done to match incomplete or buggy results is a great way to build up technical debt.  The velocity of progress in subsequent sprints will suffer as the team has to put the final touches on what should have been done before.

Power of Transparency and Completeness

Keep your definition of done tidy!

Keep your definition of done tidy!

Scrum and agile practices draw power from transparency of both process and reality.  This power has many benefits like:

  • The customer knows what they are getting and when.
  • The enterprise trusts the team to produce their commitment.
  • The team enjoys space and time in the sprint to do their work.
  • The end product actually works and has minimum bugs.

Harness this power!  Be honest with the team and your customer and make sure that something declared done really is done.  And make sure you always do the edges!

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