Ric Raftis Consulting

What Does Done Look Like?

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Although this article talks about projects, don’t consider this to be purely a business term. All the concepts mentioned in this article refer equally to the construction of a multi-storey building as they would to the rearrangement of the bedroom furniture. Everything is a project that has a commencement and end.

Prior to the commencement of any project, one of the most important considerations is getting everyone involved, the stakeholders, in exactly what the completed project “looks like”. Sometimes goals and objectives can become confused and mean different things to differnt people. In this article, we will be looking at how you can ensure that everyone is on the same page and has the same expectations when it comes to the end result of a project.

If you’re in the middle of a project when you ask this question, then you have possibly left it too late. However, the project can still be salvaged so that misunderstandings and conflict is avoided by revisiting what the project’s completion looks like to all concerned.

Defining Done

When it comes to understanding what “done” looks like, it’s important to set clear expectations, define exactly what will be delivered, and also create a timeline reflecting any milestones along the way. Not only will this define what done looks like at the end of the project, but also along the journey.

Defining done is simply two parties having as close as possible to the same picture in their minds of what the project will look like when completed. For the sake of providing a couple of examples, let’s assume someone asks you to get some bananas at the supermarket. When you arrive home with six bananas, they tell you they wanted ten. Obviously there wasn’t enough clarification around the detail and this happens quite frequently with projects as much as simple tasks. Another example might be that in business you are asked to provide a report on a particular issue and you generate one of two pages. Your boss however was looking for something far more detailed and around twenty pages. Again, no clarification and it can not only result in having to do the work again, but can also cause conflict between the parties involved.

Establishing Trust

Additionally, it’s important to establish trust between all stakeholders as the expectations are established upfront. Without trust and expectations, it can be difficult to reach a mutual understanding of what “done” looks like, and the project can suffer as a result.

For example, if you’re working on a website redesign project, you should have a timeline that outlines when each phase of the project needs to be completed. You should also have a clear definition of the deliverables or results for each phase. These milestones are also an opportunity for establishing an understanding of what a successful outcome looks like. Checking that everyone agrees on the results of the milestones can avoid compounding any misunderstandings at the end of the project and having to do a lot more work over again. Additionally, it’s important to have regular check-ins with all stakeholders to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that any issues are addressed quickly. As each milestone is completed to everyone’s satisfaction, trust is built and all stakeholders can feel justifiably

Finally, it’s important to be flexible and open to changes throughout the project. This will ensure that the project is completed successfully and that everyone involved is happy with the outcome.


Another essential ingredient in successful project completion is communication. Stakeholders should be kept informed on a regular basis on the progress of the project. You also need to be open to receiving questions from them as the project progresses. Honest and open communications also contribute to the maintenance of trust.


Starting out with a clear definition of what done looks like that is agreed upon by all parties is essential. Then by taking the time throughout the project to ensure that everyone involved has a shared understanding of what “done” looks like, and the level of progress, project managers can help ensure successful completion of the project. With a clear definition of what “done” looks like, you can ensure that the project is completed on time and that all stakeholders are satisfied with the outcome. The trust built with one project is always there in the bank for the next one you do together.


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