What is the definition of Done in Agile Product Managament

Written by
Leonardo Vezzati
Co-founder & COO
Back to basics

Ending the "Is It Done?" Debate: A Guide to Definition of Done in Agile

Ever find your team stuck in a never-ending loop of "is this done?" Are developers, testers, and designers constantly debating the completion status of work? If so, your team needs a definition of done (DoD).

What is Definition of Done in Agile?

In Agile, DoDs are team agreements outlining the criteria for considering a backlog item truly finished. It brings consistency to how teams approach each item, fostering smoother workflows and clearer communication.

Benefits of a Definition of Done:

  • Improved sizing and planning: A clear DoD helps teams estimate effort and time accurately when working on backlog items. By understanding the expected testing, documentation, and deployment requirements, they can make informed decisions during planning.
  • Reduced repetitive conversations: With a defined standard, teams avoid endless discussions about testing levels, documentation updates, and deployment environments. The DoD serves as a reference point, eliminating ambiguity and streamlining communication.
  • Transparency into development approach: A well-crafted DoD acts as a window into your team's development process. It establishes a common language for discussing and refining your approach, ultimately leading to continuous improvement.
  • Reduced rework: A clear DoD minimizes the risk of rework after accepting an item as "done." By having a shared understanding of expectations, teams can avoid misunderstandings and conflicts that lead to rework.

Why is a Definition of Done Important for Product Managers?

As a product manager, understanding the DoD allows you to:

  • Set clear expectations: Communicate what's expected from the team for each backlog item, ensuring deliverables meet the required quality standards.
  • Focus on problem-solving: Shift your focus from mundane discussions about testing and documentation to the core issues of backlog items and their acceptance criteria.
  • Manage your involvement: Understand your role in the development process, whether it's providing sign-off, coordinating testing resources, or managing additional documentation needs.

Creating and Implementing a Definition of Done:

  1. Gather the team: Explain the goal of agreeing on a common understanding of "done" for backlog items.
  2. Brainstorm activities: Encourage team members to suggest activities they consider essential for completing a backlog item. This can be done physically using sticky notes or virtually through collaborative tools.
  3. Refine and agree: Discuss the suggestions, ensure they're reasonable and achievable, and eliminate duplicates or unclear items. This collaborative process leads to a shared understanding of the final DoD.
  4. Monitor and adapt: Use the DoD regularly to assess item completion and adapt it as needed during retrospective meetings. Remember, the DoD is a living document that can evolve as your team and project progress.


  • Keep it practical: Avoid creating an excessively long or unrealistic list of criteria. The DoD should define the minimum essential work required, not weigh down every item with unnecessary steps.
  • Ensure shared understanding: The DoD's effectiveness hinges on a shared understanding among all team members. Regularly revisit and clarify any ambiguities to maintain consistency and transparency.

By adopting a Definition of Done, you can eliminate the "is it done?" debate and foster a more efficient, collaborative, and transparent development environment within your Agile team.

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