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Accelerating Product Delivery Without Cutting Corners

A lean DoD is a powerful tool that can ensure quality, boost productivity, and facilitate faster delivery.

Leaning out the Definition of Done (DoD) involves the application of Lean principles to identify and remove waste. Each step in the DoD must be scrutinized for its value.

  1. Does it contribute to the quality of the product or the value for the customer? If not, it's a candidate for removal.
  2. Next, look for redundancies. Are there steps that are similar or even duplicative? Simplify or merge these steps where possible.
  3. Finally, challenge the necessity of approval processes. If these are slowing down your delivery, consider if they could be replaced with automated tests or peer reviews.

The Definition of Done and the Core Objectives of Lean

In the Scrum framework, the Definition of Done creates a shared understanding both among and between teams. It aligns teams on the exact criteria a feature, user story, or product increment must meet to be considered complete. This allows for transparency, fosters quality, and promotes a unified view of what 'done' means.

Lean principles, which originated from the Toyota Production System (TPS), streamline workflows by reducing waste and maximizing value. Lean helps to eliminate non-value-add (NVA) activities. Although it originated in manufacturing, its applications go far beyond, including the domains of software development, legal, financial services, healthcare and countless others.

How Waste Creep Creates a Cumbersome Definition of Done

While DoD is an asset for Scrum teams, it can also be ripe ground for waste. This typically happens when the DoD becomes too extensive, detailing steps that do not contribute to overall quality or what the customer values. For example, a team might include extensive documentation or unnecessary approval processes in their DoD. While these steps may seem beneficial at first glance, they often result in delayed timelines and hinder the flow of value to the customer.

An example: team “Rogue Squadron” had a 25-point checklist for their DoD. The list included elaborate documentation, multiple reviews, and numerous sign-offs before marking any story as done. While this extensive DoD was designed to ensure quality, it resulted in significant delays, increased pressure on the team, and slowed down the delivery process. An overly complex DoD can become a hindrance rather than a facilitator of quality and speed.

Maintaining a Minimum Viable Definition of Done

The goal should be to craft a Minimum Viable DoD (MVDoD) - a DoD that is as streamlined as possible, while still ensuring quality and value. This involves continuous review and refinement.

Feedback is essential to maintaining an MVDoD. Regularly review the DoD in retrospectives, and consider the impact of each criterion on the speed and quality of the delivered product.

Incorporate what you learn from each sprint into refining your DoD. If a step is unnecessary or redundant, remove it. If a new step could enhance quality or value, include it.

Final Thoughts

Remember, your DoD is not set in stone, inspecting and adapting or refining it is a continuous process. Leaning out your DoD is an investment that will reap dividends in the form of a more efficient and value-driven team.