Rare, Medium, and Well-Done!

Do your teams use the term “done”. Does it mean something? Does capital “D” (Done) mean more than small “d” (done)? Or do you use the dreaded (done-done-done) to indicate “done”?

Here at GHQ, we have actually uncovered 3 states of “done-ness” on our Agile projects: Rare, Medium, and Well-Done. I’ve noticed that without exception, every team I have helped adopt new Scrum principles uses the dreaded “done-done-done” moniker, or some such, to describe a state that essentially means “there’s nothing left to do so we can ship it!”.meat

In my first coaching endeavor, I thought, “what a unique way for the team to express itself! That’s so quaint.” Now, when I hear teams say, “Are you done-done-done?”, a shiver goes up my leg. This is not the kind of leg shiver Barack Obama gives Chris Matthews. It’s the bad kind of shiver.

Now with more experience, this phrase (and other like it – see meat analogy above) mostly make me feel like I haven’t done-done-done my job. At the very least it makes me think that somewhere along the line, I have neglected to describe why DONE needs to stand for something, and why “done-done-done” screams “we still don’t know what DONE means!”

The reason, I believe, this word should mean more is the message it conveys to our customers and our partners. Applying the reasoning of a lawyer, it doesn’t pass the “reasonable person” test. If I say the term, “it’s done” to a reasonable person, do they think:

  • It’s DONE….

or, do they think

  • It still needs to be checked in, unit tested, QA tested, promoted to UAT, UAT tested, validated, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc, etc

As Agile has gained momentum and customers have made their way into our stand-ups, design sessions, and overall daily lives, we as software development organizations need to be cognoscente of the messages we send. Scrum has done a pretty good job of making us realize that demo’s mean something to our business partners. So if you show the “happy path” of a feature, they don’t SEE the happy path. They see their system…and it’s working! Yahtzee! Ship it!

The first time you pull back the curtain and show them why you can’t just ship it (the broken links, the hacked supporting pages, the hardcoded breadcrumb, the broken buttons, or the fact that it doesn’t work anywhere but Sam’s developer machine) the sadness and disappointment sets in, and the terrorists have won. You may not know it now, but Trust (capital “T”) is starting to erode.

“But, don’t they know that it’s just a demo?”

No. They don’t. Just like they don’t understand that done (small “d”) doesn’t mean DONE (all caps) either….because no reasonable person does!

Some small advice that turns out to make a BIG difference in the long run.

  1. Treat the language you use with your partners carefully
  2. Apply the “reasonable person” test. Would a reasonable person understand your intent?
  3. Make the word “done” mean something in your organization before one of your teams creates multiples meanings for it. Once “done-done-done” emerges (or Rare, Medium, and Well-Done in my case), it’s much harder to regain lost Trust (and the appropriate meaning of our words)
  4. Lastly, teach your teams the power of Trust

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