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2020 Scrum Guide: Definition of Done Created By Scrum Team

November 22, 2020
This is part #22 of 59 in the series Scrum Guide 2020 Updates

In the 2020 Scrum Guide, the Definition of Done is created by the Scrum Team. In previous versions of the Scrum Guide, this responsibility was explicitly owned by the Development Team. I will explain the intention of the change and what it means for Scrum Teams. (Note if you want to see my take on the 2020 Scrum Guide overall, check out this article.)

Why is the Definition of Done created by the Scrum Team?

This change is related to another change in the 2020 Scrum Guide. There is an intention to place greater emphasis on the importance of the Scrum Team working together towards a shared purpose. From the 2020 Scrum Guide, “The entire Scrum Team is accountable for creating a valuable, useful Increment every Sprint.” While there are still explicit accountabilities for the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers, all three roles must work together effectively in order to be successful with Scrum.

Note that this has always been true. And this wording change helps address misinterpretations and anti-patterns in how organizations implement Scrum.

Another reason for this change is to point out that everyone on the Scrum Team should care about and contribute to quality. It helps everyone on the Scrum Team work towards improving quality, not just the Developers.

Again, this has always been true. The Definition of Done was never meant to be something the Developers create in a vacuum.

A Definition of Done is most effective when created as a collaboration among the entire Scrum Team.

Developers have the knowledge and skills to do the work to create useable Increments, so they should bring this expertise into the Definition of Done. As professionals, they are always seeking to hone their craft and keep up with changes and innovations in their field. And they take into consideration any quality standards set by the organization.

Product Owners often have inputs related to quality from the business perspective. For example, the business may plan to expand an online application or a business process to support additional geographies and more concurrent users. And of course, quality impacts value. Product Owners have a stake in the quality and transparency of the Increment, so it is important that they both understand the Definition of Done and have an appreciation for what it takes to create a quality, useable Increment.

Scrum Masters helps facilitate improvements to a Definition of Done as part of their accountability for the Scrum Team's effectiveness. A Scrum Master can help create greater transparency for the Scrum Team to identify where quality needs to improve. A Scrum Master may leverage coaching skills to challenge assumptions and support team members in trying new things in the spirit of continuous improvement.

What does this change mean for Scrum Teams?

Honestly, probably not a whole lot if your Scrum Team is already doing Scrum well, experiencing the benefits of agility, and delighting customers.

Has your Scrum Team been struggling with pressure to deliver more stuff faster? Has that pressure led to either cutting quality or not implementing needed improvements for quality?  Well, now is the time to challenge this behavior. Now is the time to insist on Professional Scrum.

For ALL Scrum Teams, this is a great opportunity to have a conversation about the importance of quality and transparency, discuss what this commitment means for every role, and how everyone will honor this commitment. Here are a few questions that may spark helpful insights and improvements:

  • How are quality and value related?

  • What needs to be made transparent to help us understand quality and progress?

  • How does Scrum help us improve quality while not losing sight of the importance of frequent delivery of value?

You may also want to check out my broader analysis of the latest Scrum Guide in the article What You Need to Know About The 2020 Scrum Guide.

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