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When Scrum Team can adapt the Definition of Done?

Last post 07:17 pm June 5, 2019 by Daniel Wilhite
5 replies
12:53 pm June 5, 2019

Hi everyone, 


I read contradictory things about when the definition of "Done" can be adapted within a sprint.  

Some say that can occur anytime if necessary to include more stringent criteria for higher quality.

And others say it's only at the Restropective meeting?


What is your opinion? Thank you very much!

01:21 pm June 5, 2019

Why not tell us your thoughts first? What do you see as being the relative advantages and disadvantages?

02:27 pm June 5, 2019

In my opinion, the Dev Team can adapt the DoD anytime after notifying the PO (I don't know if it's a Scrum rule but it seems more logical to me that the PO should be informed of the change even if the Dev Team has the last word.)

First of all, if the Dev Team realizes during the Sprint that they are able to produce an Increment of a higher quality than they had initially planned at the Sprint Planning, it would be a waste of time to wait until the Retrospective to adjust the DoD.

On the other hand, if the Dev Team realizes that the DoD was too ambitious, it can be dangerous not to readapt it as soon as possible. They take the risk to not be able to provide any « Done » Increment at the end of the Sprint.

In short, I would say that the DoD can be adapted anytime BUT I also think that the Retrospective is still an excellent time to rethink the DoD anyway and take stock for the next Sprint.

What do you think Ian? Thanks!

02:33 pm June 5, 2019

Sorry  - I made a mistake it is the whole Scrum Team that defines the DoD. 

The argument is the same except that it is not only the Dev Team that is involved in the DoD. 

05:45 pm June 5, 2019

On the other hand, if the Dev Team realizes that the DoD was too ambitious, it can be dangerous not to readapt it as soon as possible. They take the risk to not be able to provide any « Done » Increment at the end of the Sprint.

Wouldn’t it be less dangerous to renegotiate the scope of work, rather than to change the Definition of Done to a “less ambitious” standard which might preclude the safe release of anything at all?

07:17 pm June 5, 2019

@Ian's suggestion is spot on and is empirical in nature. Make the decisions based on the value and quality of what is being delivered and not to make things easier.

My opinion is that the DoD should be adapted on regular intervals such as Sprint boundaries. But discussions that involve the entire Scrum Team should occur at anytime that issues are found.  Notice I said discussions because this is not "informing the Product Owner" it is including all parties involved to be part of the decision. Discussions can be acceptance that the DoD may not be completely reached or that it may be exceeded.  Those same conversations can result in decisions about what will actually be finished by the Sprint boundary. Remember these statements from the Scrum Guide section about the DoD (as usual, emphasis added by me)

When a Product Backlog item or an Increment is described as "Done", everyone must understand what "Done" means. Although this may vary significantly per Scrum Team, members must have a shared understanding of what it means for work to be complete, to ensure transparency. 

As Scrum Teams mature, it is expected that their definitions of "Done" will expand to include more stringent criteria for higher quality. New definitions, as used, may uncover work to be done in previously "Done" increments. Any one product or system should have a definition of "Done" that is a standard for any work done on it.

This statement is included in the section of the Scrum Guide that talks about the Retrospective

During each Sprint Retrospective, the Scrum Team plans ways to increase product quality by improving work processes or adapting the definition of "Done", if appropriate and not in conflict with product or organizational standards.

DoD is something that will evolve as the team and organization matures. I question any team that doesn't evolve their DoD. To me that implies a level of complacency and not maturity. 

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