Defining Done

Defining Done

Projects suffer when people get stuck. People get stuck when they don’t have clarity on tasks assigned to them or their team. (One way to tell you are stuck on a task is that you continually put off completing it). The problem is compounded by the fact that people often don’t want to ask for help because they think it will make them appear incompetent.

Use this exercise at the beginning of a project when you are assigning tasks to a team so that everyone has clear expectations about the project and their part in it. It is also useful when you or your team are paralyzed by a poorly defined task or a complex problem. 

Defining expected outcomes or work products for each task in a project increases team transparency, accountability, and project success
Step 1: Start with the End in Mind

Ask yourself or your team these questions:

  • If you were not the person responsible for completing this assignment, what evidence would you need to know for sure that it was done?
  • Should this task produce a tangible work product or a specific outcome?
  • What is the work product or outcome? Documentation? Implementation of a system? Presentation? A demo of process?
Step 2: Break It Down

In answering these questions, you may discover that there are other tasks or events that need to be completed before you can start on your assignment. This process also reveals whether you are dealing with a task or a component or a full-blown project. If the task seems to have multiple work products or people responsible for completion, it is likely not a task. In this case, break it down into manageable tasks.

Step 3: Add Project Components and Deliverables

Give participants 3 minutes to write down short statements or reasons to believe that each project element is delivering on the Vision & Mission (or North Star) and project purpose. (Participants should write notes beneath each deliverable). Download our Does It Ladder Up? Evaluation guide to help the team through this process

After 3 minutes, ask each group member to share their statements; together, the team will decides whether each component ladder ups, ladders up better with adjustments, or should be eliminated from the project because it doesn’t strongly contribute to the project or organization’s purpose.