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Definition of Done Matrix at Sprint Planning

Many teams have been adopting an iterative way to deliver new services, products, and complex projects.

Duration of the iteration is one month or less and starts with short planning session. In Scrum, the iteration is called Sprint and the mandatory rule says that at the end of the Sprint there must be a done product increment in accordance with Definition of Done or simply DoD.

Definition of Done

Many confuse Definition of Done with user requirements that on the high level expressed as PBIs in the Product Backlog. But these are completely different concepts! For example, you order furniture for your own design with clear requirements for materials, sizes and accessories. You pass the same requirements to different furniture manufacturers. One manufacturer fulfills the order with quality, the second, well, after a few months everything begins to fall off quickly. What distinguishes both manufacturers? Perhaps the best practices, tools, production process, professionalism and organization of teamwork – everything that Scrum defines as “done”, or definition of Done. Each organization has different definition of done, which affects the quality of the delivered service. The picture below is an example of user requirements and definition of done for a wedding agency, as well as an example of definition of done for software development.


It would seem that after such an obvious example it should be clear that it is important for Sprint Planning to take into account both items from the Product Backlog as well as the definition of done. However, I observe that the items from definition of done are used very superficially (if such items exists at all) which leads to poor quality of service. How do you fix it?

DoD Matrix at Sprint Planning

A team is likely to demonstrate greater responsibility for quality when they use the DoD Matrix, a Sprint Planning tool. At the last public workshop, a group of facilitators successfully tested this tool in online format. Let’s look at an example:

The structure of the Matrix:

  • Vertically, we have requirements from the Product Backlog. In the picture it is represented as yellow cards: wedding site, food catering for vegetarians, invitation cards, etc.
  • Horizontally, items from the definition of done. In the picture it corresponds to the cards of green color.
  • The cells at the intersection should have a specific task or tasks that you plan for the next Sprint.
  • You estimate these tasks in days, but so that the size of one task is no more than one day (0.25, 0.5, 1)
  • The total amount of all tasks should not exceed the team’s capacity

Thus, the facilitator, or Scrum Master, gently introduces the definition of donenot only as a checklist to be verified at the end of a Sprint but as aplanning tool too. And you will definitely see the difference – the team will become more responsible about the quality of the process and do not lose sight of the the definition of done.

Online Facilitation

  • Before a sprint planning session, the facilitator prepares the DoD Matrix. For a team to be able to collaborate remotely a tool like Mural perfectly works to drive DoD Matrix.
  • I’d recommend starting the meeting by estimating the team’s capacity for sprint (number of days x number of people minus day-off)
  • Using Zoom, the facilitator creates a breakout room for collaboration and leaves the team for five minutes. After five minutes, the facilitator joins in to see if everything is moving in the right direction, whether there is a misunderstanding that should be clarified.
  • The second time the facilitator leaves the group for one hour. If one hour is not enough to complete DoD Matrix, the facilitator adds more time, consulting with the team. But the total time for planning should not exceed 8 hours!!!

Definition of done can turn into powerful team coaching tool, once it becomes a clear constraint for self-organization. Don’t miss the opportunity to experiment with DoD Matrix or any other model that properly introduces DoD at the Sprint Planning.

Stay On the Line!

Slava Moskalenko, CEO of Agile.Live

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