Agile and the Art of Finishing

agile project management

One of the things I love about Agile projects is that there is always (or there should always) be a clear definition of done. For everything. From the vision set from the start, through to the high level objectives, through to the stories and tasks. And everyone knows what it is. It’s even written down. And when a task is moved across to “Done”, it is not done in isolation – the team needs to agree. This definition, and the collaboration that goes into it, keeps the team focused on the end point. It reminds us we are not just ‘doing’ but ‘finishing’. Work is time boxed which means tasks cannot drag on without a really good reason.

Getting caught up in the ‘doing’

We are ‘doing’ addicts. We love to keep busy, often not on the most important things, and we get a rush from achieving things, however small. The problem with all the doing is we are spending so much time on it, we are not finishing anything. A mentor once told me that a great sign you are poor at finishing is if you do not finish the little things. Pieces of toast, cups of tea, small things. On a consistent basis. It’s not to say you have to finish absolutely everything (if there is too much on your plate, leave it) but if you are having problems finishing work, a great way to help yourself along is to finish some small things. Put away all the dishes after dinner, finish that book, throw away what you are not using.

Finishing The Agile Project Manager

I must admit, despite a clear ‘definition of done’ in my vision, I had trouble finishing my book. I loved the ‘doing’ of it. I loved the writing process, I loved the research, I loved the tweaking of various parts. I especially loved all the feedback I received from my reviewers, and working out ways to incorporate it. I think I particularly loved the identity I took on as ‘someone who is writing a book’, and I didn’t want to let it go. I’m quite excited about being a ‘published author’ but clearly the identity I have taken on in the writing process is hard to let go of.

“How you do one thing is how you do everything”

With the thought in mind that if I’m not finishing the big things, I could start with the little things. I started tidying up completely after dinner. I started making my bed (according to Tim Ferriss, when you “win the morning you win the day”. I started consciously finishing tasks that I started and ticking them off. I evaluated the tasks I had on the go and assessed if they were still important. I managed my ‘backlog’ and focused on the items that were critical to my success.

Are you a good finisher? What tactics could you use to ensure you finish what you start when it’s really important? Feel free to share! Also feel free to join The Agile Project Manager team by subscribing. You will get the latest news on the book including the Introduction for free.



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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.