Agile tasks lists, what does “done” mean in Agile?


The above is an example of an Agile task list.  Task lists are a way for Agile users to plan and track their progress.  Lists are kept in a simple spreadsheet format which tracks the estimated time to complete a task, the actual time it took, and the people responsible for the task (Reichlmayr, 2003).  As with all other Agile strategies, task lists are subject to change and are developed via user stories.  The task list is not merely busy work to be completed, but is rather a way for teams to keep organized by dividing tasks as equally as they can across each sprint.

Being done means that something is finished, or in other words, the end has been reached.  When you are done eating, it can mean that you still have food on your plate that you can’t finish.  When you are done with a test, it can mean that you bubbled C straight down out of frustration.  When your significant other sees you getting a bit too chummy with your attractive neighbor, you are done.  These are all different usages of done.

Ecce Homo

Above is the infamous “restoration” of a painting of Jesus called the Ecce Homo (behold [the] man).  Surely, the painting is done, as well as that person’s artistic career.

In Agile, being done is defined in much more specific terms.  Done means that a project is not haphazardly completed.  The product needs to appear amazing to every member involved and satisfy all the user stories created.  It doesn’t stop there.  The end product then needs to pass one final test: the review phase.  After the entire designing and developing phase, it needs to be tested for potentially unintended, unwanted bugs (Gupta, 2008).  The process is repeated until it is devoid of all the bugs that are found.  Then, it needs to be approved by the product owner and therefore be recognized as a product that is ready for distribution.

For technology-related products, a product can almost never be classified as done.  Even after mass distribution, users may find bugs that the developers failed to spot, or even come up with ideas that would improve the product even more.  Many more user stories will emerge due to, well, more users.  For example, video game developers often create downloadable patches to add onto their games which include new features and bug fixes.  Being done is like being perfect: impossible, but a goal to strive for nonetheless.


Agile Project Management.  20 Aug. 2010.

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Gupta, Mayank.  Definition of Done: A Reference.  3 Sept. 2008.

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Neild, Barry.  Ecce Homo ‘restorer’ wants a slice of the royalties.  20 Sept. 2012.

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Reichlmayr, Thomas.  The Agile Approach in an Undergraduate Software Engineering Course Project.  5 Nov. 2003.

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2 thoughts on “Agile tasks lists, what does “done” mean in Agile?

  1. Here is a blog post that should be celebrated. It is the first blog post that I have reviewed to include the following ultra powerful teaching tool: humor. The blog post begins very informatively, with a technical graphic and a breakdown of the information shown on it. Whereas a less well done blog post would continue this way throughout its entirety, this well done blog rewards its readers for learning with humor. In this case, the reward is a hilarious anecdote about a restored painting, and it’s a very good way to allow the brain to relax and digest all the good information it has just received.


  2. You bring up a good point in your final paragraph: products in technology are almost never classified as done. Though that doesn’t mean individual tasks won’t be considered complete and that’s what you focused on explaining. Also, as Cuad mentioned, good use of humor to draw extra attention. I know I’m a sucker for a good laugh now and again and will definitely keep me wanting to read more. Software requires maintenance and you expressed that simply.


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