Use a Definition of Done checklist to get work really DONE-DONE

Unfinished work kills productivity and quality
Agile Arthur
Freelance Facilitator
Last updated: 
August 29, 2023
Use a Definition of Done checklist to get work really DONE-DONE

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Unfinished work kills productivity and quality

It feels great to say something is done.

(Double the fun when you can also move your task to a Done column)

But after getting feedback, a lot of times we learn that our work was not as done as we thought it was.

Killing for morale, and also disrupting the next task you are working on.

Three things are causing this:

  • WE FORGET THINGS: We are only human. Sometimes you just overlook small errors after having worked so long on something.
  • MISALIGNMENT: Only after showing your work to someone else, it becomes clear they had different expectations.
  • UNCLARITY: We didn't really think through what done actually means for our team.

There's an example checklist below for you to use in your team, but first let's look a some examples.


Definition of Done (DoD)

With a "Definition of Done" checklist, the quality of your team's work will always follow high standards. It works because you have agreed as a team what those quality standards should be.

It's like having a chef in your kitchen who checks your next meal before leaving the kitchen. But for teams.

Plus, the only thing you need to make it work is to tick the boxes of a checklist before saying something is done…

Curious to know how?

Before moving your next task to Done, make sure you tick off all the boxes of your Definition of Done checklist ✅.

Always be strict about your team's Definition of Done.

Here are 3 simple steps to implement a "Definition of Done" for your team:

  1. Start small and agree on four things you and your team want to put on your Definition of Done checklist.
  2. Use your checklist before you move your next task to Done. Tick all the checkboxes (or skip them on purpose).
  3. Update your Definition of Done. After using the checklist for a couple of weeks, improve the checklist in your next Retrospective.

A Definition of Done example for your team can be:

  • 👍Agreement. The whole team agrees that the work is Done. ALTERNATIVE: Use the four-eyes principle.
  • 😄Acceptance. All the acceptance criteria for this specific work are met.
  • 🛳Available. The persons benefiting from your work know where to find it.
  • 🔍Transparant. Your team's backlog is updated so that everyone knows the work is Done.


The ROI of the Definition of Done

Need to convince your team to give this a try?

Alright, let's say your team is "finishing" 40 tasks per week and 10% of that is undone (aka moved back from Done to Doing). That means finishing 160 tasks less per year (even without calculating the productivity hit on your next tasks).

I have seen teams double in productivity because of the Definition of Done.

Also, as your team matures your Definition of Done will include higher quality standards.

Not bad for a checklist.


  1. Read and understand this tool.
  2. Write down your teams current weekly velocity.
  3. Implement the Definition of Done in your team.
  4. Measure the increase in productivity.
  5. Share your improvement stats with us!

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