On first impressions, it seems obvious. Done is an absolute, right? Something is either done, or it isn’t. But that is exactly the point. Done means different things to different people, depending on the task. A lack of consensus on what done looks like can lead to friction and arguments that are completely avoidable. Let me explain. For ease of understanding, I’ll use a couple of domestic examples.
When I wash up, for reasons we don’t need to go into now, thank you very much, I often leave the water in the sink when all the dishes are clean. I walk away. Some time later, either my husband or I come back to dirty, cold, dish-water and a sud-stained sink. Even I am annoyed with my apparent definition of “done” on this one. Needless to say, my husband isn’t thrilled either.
But before you all think I am a piggy-piggy and my husband is perfect, I have another domestic example. When washing and/or ironing clothes, he stops the job when the clothes are folded. They might get organised into a washing basket but they are certainly not in the drawers and cupboards, their final destination as clean clothes (insert arm-flapping, frustrated Sarah-monster here).
So what’s the problem? Done is the problem. We haven’t agreed on the definition of done. This problem happens at home. It happens with friends. And of course, it happens at work. It might be different understandings about when a project is complete. Or conflicting expectations about who should have sent an email and when.
Basically, it’s falling short of expectations, because the expectations were not clearly defined. If you find yourself frustrated at someone’s incomplete work, stop for a minute and consider if the definition of done could be the culprit.
Develop a definition of “DONE”.
- Take the time to consider what the expectations are for completion of the task
- Set clear expectations
- Make sure everyone agrees to those expectations
Once the definition is agreed, you can relax, knowing you have ironed out one of life’s great frustrations. Did someone say ironing…