For quite some time now, project managers see defining targets as smart goals (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Realistic – Timebound) and objectives and key results (OKRs) as the golden standard. Thus, managing a project effectively is the result of having measurable tasks. In our view, this is not the full story – as it often creates the illusion of certainty and clarity. The key to turning a project and any larger task into a successful delivery is to have a Definition of Done (DoD).
What is a DoD?
The Definition of Done is a framework for completing the task. It originates from agile methodologies and does not change during a project. ‘Task done” means the meeting of predefined conditions. Such conditions typically include elements of the project governance like documentation requirements and also quality aspects.
For instance, you want to have a new company website. You choose to work with a team on it (e.g. an external agency and a content editor). The Definition of Done in this example should serve as your quality gate for the successful launch; it should state:
- A four-eye principle is implemented to ensure all text elements are appropriately controlled and corrected, if necessary.
- All text elements are mistake free.
- All text elements follow the brand message and are easy to read for a potential customer.
- You must acquire appropriate licences for all the images on the website.
- The content map is updated.
- The website page contains and links to all the other company channels (e.g. social media).
- The text is uploaded onto the new server, all links are checked, and no hyphenation is copied.
- Tracking pixels are integrated.
- A project drive stores all the texts and assets.
- You (the director) sign off formally the text.
- The pages loading time is under 2 seconds.
- The task backlog records all identified follow up tasks.
- You can mark the associated task complete.
This example helps to define appropriately key quality drivers. In contrast to a smart goal, this Definition of Done is much richer and drives quality in the long-run. It prevents quick and dirty completion of pieces of work, which might spoil the overall project success.
Another example is the launching of a new app. The D
Why you should use a Definition of Done
In short, a thoughtful Definition of Done prevents late surprises, time and budget overruns. It allows you to keep smart goals short while ensuring a common understanding of what means “done” for everyone on the team. Imagine a review session in such a project – nobody can hide behind partial completions.