Planning projects can seem daunting for many of you and believe me I’ve been there. As you read this article you will learn how to you use the Definition of Done correctly. And I’ll explain some ground rules which guarantee your project planning to become easy and seamless, and most important it works!
I’ve written about this topic in my previous article, so I limit myself to some short words to get you up to speed. If you want more information, please head over to ‘There is DONE or DONE NOT!‘.
Defining Done works like this: You sit together with the person who does the task and the one who uses the result of the task and put in writing how it will actually look like, when the task is finished and the result can be used by the following task without any problem.
By the way, this is also valid if you are using Agile techniques because there also you have somebody who will use the result. If not, you should cancel the whole task anyways.
That said, let’s investigate the different possibilities to link tasks together.
How to link Tasks together
There are several possibilities to link tasks, but some of them, even if the big project management software companies and project management trainers think they are cool, do not work and are just BS.
Let’s have a look at the different scenarios:
1.) Start to Start
That one means, both tasks start at the same time. It’s easy and you can use it without problem.
No big deal. Just make sure to define for each task when it’s Done so that you are sure how things will go on. You want to use this when both tasks can be started immediately, and result of task A is not needed to start task B.
2.) Finish to Start
That one means, task B starts when task A ends. That’s the standard one.
And that’s the one my old aunty Martha would have loved. When I was a little boy, she used to say to me: “Always observe the correct sequence, my boy. First find a nice girl, then get married, then make children. Never mix this up!” Project management rule for life, isn’t it? “Good boy” she said when I invited her to my wedding… Well, to be honest, she wasn’t entirely satisfied with my choice, but that’s her fault not mine. She should have better defined Done… 🤣
This is how a ‘Finish to Start’ looks in theory:
Here you really need to define Done. Otherwise the team A will report their task as finished and task B is sliding because team B cannot work with the result team A provided. This means team B will be pissed off and lean back because they can’t start, while team A will already work on something else and it’s YOU who has the mess in your project plan.
If you don’t have defined Done correctly, this is what you get:
3.) Finish to Finish
That one means, both tasks A and B are bound to end at the same time before C can start. That’s also a standard, but more complicated to coordinate. Here is how it should look in the best of all worlds.
For God’s sake, please define Done! Otherwise you will multiply the problems of scenario 2. What I highly suggest is building in some buffer at this “end” point. Why? Because if you have 1 task to be finished at a predefined point of time you have a 50% chance of it being late. With 2 Tasks, the chance is 100%.
Here is how I would make it look like:
Don’t use delay
You might have heard of the possibility to introduce delays into your project plan. Forget it! That is BS and calling for trouble.
It’s just additional work but will not make your planning any better. For example, task A starts 5 days after task B has started. What happens in these 5 days? Why 5 days and not 4 or 6? What if task A starts later than it should have, and task B therefore should not yet start?
Well, it could be that you need a partial result of task A to start task B. And that’s when you do the following. And here’s how to do it right. You take the first part of task A that you can clearly define and make it A’. When A’ is Done, this is the starting signal for tasks A and B.
Just to mention it. Do not forget to define Done for task A’, otherwise you will not know when A and B can start!
And here an example of the ultimate nonsense:
Task B starts 5 days before task A ends. How stupid is that?
Have you ever visited a friend who gave you a description how to get to his place saying: “500 meter before the end of the town you need to turn left.”? Basically, this means, when you know you should have turned you have gone too far. With a car you just make a U-turn and try again. In projects there are no U-turns, you are just too late.
Nonetheless if you need to do this for whatever reason, there is a simple solution:
Cut task A in two. When task A is done, this is the starting point for task A’ (the remaining from task A) and task B which start at the same time. This avoids any confusion and will work like a charm.
For example, let’s say you have a bottom plate for your new house to be poured in concrete. The concrete takes 5 days to dry. Then you define the pouring of the plate as task A with Done being easy to define and the drying is task A’. Task B might be something the same workers can do on another point of your building site while waiting for the concrete to dry. So, task B will start as soon as task A is finished.
Easy, isn’t it?
Check in with your latest project planning. Did you follow my hints, and if not, did it work? If it didn’t, what happened?
Keep in mind that you need to make absolutely sure that tasks that are reported finished respect the Definition of Done you have previously established.
I am curious to read about your experience, so please do not hesitate to leave your comments below.
Now, go below to the comments, ask your questions or let’s start a discussion! I will be glad to help and as you already know I answer all questions.