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Who defines the Definition of 'Done' in a Scrum Project?

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

The definition of 'Done' (abbreviated as DOD) is a criteria checklist used by agile teams to verify user story completeness prior to doing demos to stakeholders. Although something could be 'Done' in the eyes of the development team, the Product Owner might reject it because the user story falls short of agreed quality criteria.

When speaking to people new to agile or while scrolling through posts on various agile forums, I've frequently observed that there exists some confusion about who defines the DOD. Is it the Product Owner? Is it the Development team? Let's remove this confusion once and for all.

Here's what the Scrum Guide states about the definition of 'Done'.

"If "Done" for an increment is not a convention of the development organization, the Development Team of the Scrum Team must define a definition of "Done" appropriate for the product."

By reading the above statement it's quite evident that the development team defines and maintains the Definition of Done. However, the Product Owner's quality and performance expectations do feed into the DOD. Naturally, the development team will have to take the quality and performance attributes into account and revise their DOD from time to time. In a sense, the Product Owner can tell the development team that 'he/she expects the product to go from point A to point B' but cannot tell the development team 'How to achieve that?'. The 'How to get from point A to point B' is determined and decided by the development team which reflects in their DOD checklist.

For example, if you're driving to get to a place, the product owner can tell you that he/she wants you at a certain place at a certain time but cannot tell you the speed at which you should be driving to get there in time.

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