What Does DONE Look Like?

I’m famous (perhaps infamous) with my teams for saying,

“What does DONE look like?”

If a team or department or company can’t answer this question, all bets are off as far as I’m concerned. This question cuts to the core of defining scope and results for a team / department / company. It also becomes the basis for defining the metrics needed to verify success.

Everyone involved needs to be able to answer this question in a concise, consistent, and oh yeah, inspirational way. Otherwise, your team / department / company will suffer from:

1) A lack of focus as they are trying to execute their tasks   

“Well”, you say, “is that so bad?” “We have a lot of things that we are trying to accomplish, we need to multi-task, and we’re going to just see how this works out.” (giant cringe)

But the fact of it is,”Yes. Yes, it is bad.” – Why?

Lack of focus on a program or major work effort breeds:

  • Budget over-runs
  • Missed timelines
  • Uncertainty on how to execute
  • Confusion on next steps
  • Inability to prioritize
  • Bunny trails
  • Disconnected efforts (or worse contradictory efforts)

In other words, whatever you were trying to do will take more time and effort than you thought it would because you weren’t following a consistent path to get there.

 2) People will not know when they are done  (or won’t be able to agree on it!)

Not knowing when you’re done leads to:

  • Failed return on investment (ROI)
  • Missed expectations with customers, bosses, stockholders
  • Performance management issues
  • Personal dissatisfaction with your work

Just to name a few.

And all of this is easy (relatively) to avoid. Creating a laser-sharp focus can be difficult at the start of a task because an idea may be in its infancy. People will resist locking down some things (sometimes because it means giving up on something else).

I absolutely believe it’s fair game to change what “DONE” looks like if you get further into it and you need to adjust. However, holding off defining “DONE” almost always ultimately leads to confusion and frustration.

So the next time you’re starting a new task / program / strategy with a new team / department / company, just remember to ask, “What Does DONE Look Like?” Sprinkle the question liberally, listen and get everyone to agree on the answer.

The sooner this can be accomplished, the sooner everyone will be aligned and moving forward more efficiently and effectively!

Until next time … wishing you business readiness success!

Kirsten Jordan is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @Kirstenkbdb. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.