Skip to main content

Causes of Un-done Work

There are several reasons why Scrum Teams are left with un-done work at the end of the Sprint, including:

  • They don’t understand the importance of time-boxes or Sprint Goals.  If Sprints are just periodic check-ins on progress and if Sprint Planning merely involves updating an existing overall project or release plan, then the significance of Sprints and the Scrum framework is diminished for the team.  It suggests that the team is not really using Scrum, but rather doing what they’ve typically done while calling things by different names.
  • They take on too much work when they are planning the Sprint. This can happen when teams believe they are more productive than they really are, often due to underestimating the complexity of the work items they take on for the Sprint, or being overly confident in their ability to complete that work.
  • They accept additional work throughout the Sprint which detracts from their ability to achieve the Sprint Goal. They may allow the Product Owner or stakeholders to add work to the Sprint Plan that was not originally forecast nor related to the Sprint Goal. 
  • They underestimate the impact of external events and interruptions on their productivity. Emergencies happen, and team members can be pulled off to work on business interruptions, production outages, or to provide expertise to other teams. Additionally, even minor events like unplanned meetings or interruptions for  questions or discussions  unrelated to the Sprint Goal can add-up over time.

On this last point, studies have shown that even minor interruptions like a “quick question” or a phone call can be a great drain on effectiveness. “The length of our recovery time depends on the complexity of our task; ranging anywhere from 8 minutes for simpler tasks to 25 minutes for more complex ones.”



Learning Series
The Definition of Done describes the quality standards for the Increment. Learn why getting to Done is so important, what undone work is, if it’s okay to show work that isn’t done to stakeholders, can you present undone work at the Sprint Review and what’s the difference between the DoD and Definition of Ready or acceptance criteria.




What did you think about this content?

Included In

Learning Series
Un-done work is work that does not conform to the Definition of Done and is therefore unfinished. It represents time the Scrum Team spent creating something that delivered no value. Learn what un-done work is, what causes it and techniques for eliminating it.