Want a better definition of done? Do a load of laundry!

Collaborative Leadership Team’s Dean Gabbert, Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner, shares what he has learned about Scrum’s Definition of Done from the simple task of doing laundry.


My favorite example to use in teaching or coaching the importance of a good Definition of Done is to say, “Imagine having a conversation with someone you love most in the world about what it means to be done when doing the laundry.” This is usually met with a lot of eye rolling; laughing and inevitably someone proudly stating their definition of done: “All clothes washed, dried, folded and put away.” Someone else adds “Letting someone else do it”.  I share that my two boys’ definition of done is throwing their dirty – and sometimes clean – clothes down the laundry chute and feeling so proud because they are “helping.”

Regardless of what your definition of done is for laundry, it is a great way to think about, and more importantly talk about, what it means to be done with Product Backlog Items (PBIs). Is it always the same? Do the clothes need to be washed, dried, folded, socks paired and everything put away in a drawer or closet by the end of every Sprint? Or would it be considered “done” if you just threw a load of clothes in the washing machine and walked away? Technically they are “clean” at the end of the cycle right? Is there something that you are currently doing that could be outsourced – to the dry cleaner? Is it possible to combine light and dark clothes?  I know some of you out there just gasped in horror.  But could these be washed in cold water, speeding things up a bit to achieved clean and dry?

Are their certain PBIs that need more attention than others?  Like putting an item in one of those meshed bags and sending it through on the delicate cycle and drying on a clothes line.  Does this add time and a bit of uncertainty because drying is not controlled? Is there something in your Product Backlog that needs to be pre-treated, get an extra soak and put through on the Ultra-Clean cycle because it’s so dirty and smelly? Then you might even ask if it is even worth cleaning or would you be better off throwing it away and buying something new?

I can’t guarantee that this will help find that missing sock.  But it will help Product Owners and Development Team members have a good conversation about what done looks like.

Want to learn more?  Join Dean’s upcoming Intro to Agile course here: http://tinyurl.com/h7wlvnw