Make your Definition of Done Pop


“I shouldn’t be doing this. Going back to Pittsburgh tonight, and need me some Garrett’s.” The man in line in front of me said. Let’s call him Mr. Pittsburgh.
“I raced a half Ironman today.” I said. “I’ve been thinking about Garretts all afternoon,”
“$&@&$! All I did was show up for a flight. I just gotta have it when I’m in Chicago.”

*It* was Garrett’s popcorn, a Chicago tradition. Move over tins and bags of feeble imitators: this high quality treat is not for the weak. About 8:30 Sunday night in O’Hare airport, and the line at Garrett’s was rocking.


The CaramelCrisp corn was running low. We got nervous. It was going to be close: would I be able to order the Garrett’s Mix, a luscious blend of caramel and cheese corn? Or would they run out? Having missed my connecting flight due to a delay, and now being rerouted, I knew where I stood with luck today.

Mr. Pittsburgh ordered a medium Garrett’s mix. Only handfuls of CaramelCrisp remained. I might make it…
“Make that a large.”
In the kitchen, a team was working hard on the next batch. Maybe there was more coming…

Turns out, there was just enough caramel corn to get a small Garrett’s Mix. I was the last, lucky one.

“Attention everyone!” The front line team member belted out to the long line of customers. “We are OUT of caramel corn. Next batch will be ready in ten minutes.”

You could hear a collective sigh, but no one left the line. Loyalty, even late on a Sunday evening.

All the while, the Garrett’s team was buzzing. This setback wasn’t holding them back. They were breaking up a batch of caramel corn, talking with each other. They stopped chopping, and conferred as a group, as only a well-oiled,self-organized team could do. Something definitely had their attention.

Then the front line team member was pulled in back to talk with the team. She returned to her post, announcing “ATTENTION! The current batch of caramel corn is NOT up to Garrett’s standards. No caramel corn is available!”

As I paid for my treasure, I wondered how many tech teams have established a good definition of done, and do they have the backing to confidently stand by it, like this Garrett’s team? A few ways to put the pop in your definition of done:

1. Have a solid definition of done, whether you’re a dev team or a problem solving team. Agile is about quality.
2. Educate your leaders and heat shields on this definition. What it is, why it is there, and how the feedback loop helped shape it. Agile is about customer focus.
3. Have crucial conversations with your leaders and heat shields about technical debt, and other impediments to quality. Do they understand? Agile leaders are engaged.
4. Your leaders and heat shields can then have crucial stakeholder conversations with this information. Agile is about relationships.
5. Create a standard way to stop everything–to pull the andon– when your quality is compromised. Agile gives teams courage.

Whether it’s caramel corn or software or solution delivery issues, your teams need to have confidence in their quality. When something isn’t truly *done*, they can call it out, like a Garrett’s team member.


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