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What Is a Characteristic of a Done Increment

By Miranda Dulin
Published in Inspect & Adapt
January 22, 2024
3 min read
What Is a Characteristic of a Done Increment

A ‘Done Increment’ is like a correctly placed piece in a jigsaw puzzle. We’ve made progress toward the ultimate goal without compromising our quality standards.

What Is a Characteristic of a Done Increment

A characteristic of a done increment is that it aligns with the team’s Definition of Done. Additionally, it should meet the broader definition of ‘increment.’ This last qualifier may seem obvious, but it’s the subtleties that often hold the key.

Animated vocabulary card for the term increment

An increment is a small, functional addition to a product, typically developed during a single iteration or Sprint.

The crucial aspect of this definition lies in the incremental introduction of new functionality, effectively changing the system. This change is vital for advancing towards the Product Goal. Relating to our jigsaw puzzle metaphor, it’s akin to fitting a new piece snugly with the ones already placed - a clear and tangible sign of progress.

We must be cautious not to haphazardly place any piece into the puzzle; doing so only complicates the task for our future selves when adding more pieces. As a puzzle enthusiast, I’ve noticed that some brands create almost interchangeable pieces. Faced with an opening, you might find several pieces that seem to fit. But, it’s essential to examine them closely, holding them up to the light to ensure a gapless fit. Moreover, the image should seamlessly flow from the adjacent pieces through the newly placed one. This scrutiny mirrors the Definition of Done agile teams employ.

The Definition of Done is instrumental in maintaining quality and ensuring that each increment positions us favorably for adding future ones. If we were to randomly place puzzle pieces, forcing them where they don’t naturally fit, it would only make it more challenging to insert subsequent pieces. Additionally, this haphazard approach would hardly yield a result that anyone would find of any value.

“I dread success. To have succeeded is to have finished one’s business on earth, like the male spider, who is killed by the female the moment he has succeeded in his courtship. I like a state of continual becoming, with a goal in front and one behind.”

- George Bernard Shaw

Just as Shaw values the ongoing journey with goals ahead and behind, in an agile approach to product development, each ‘Done Increment’ is not an end but a part of a continual process. It represents not just the completion of an artifact but also the beginning of the next phase, maintaining a state of perpetual progress and evolution. The ‘Done Increment’ is a stepping stone towards a larger, ever-evolving Product Goal, mirroring Shaw’s desire for a “state of continual becoming.”

What Does Done Increment Mean?

Animated vocabulary card for the term done increment

A Done Increment is an increment that meets the team’s predefined Definition of Done (DoD).

You can think of an increment as an accumulation of completed and integrated Product Backlog Items.

The Definition of Done is crucial in ensuring our increment is potentially releasable. Following that policy, all the necessary work to make the increment available to a customer is complete. As a result, the Product Owner can release the functionality to users at any chosen time without extra effort.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

True or False: A high-performance Scrum Team ensures that each Increment is complete by running a Release Sprint.

The statement “a high-performance Scrum Team ensures that each Increment is complete by running a Release Sprint” is false.

A Release Sprint is a common anti-pattern employed by development teams that do not yet possess the skills, maturity, or process to ensure that an increment meets the Definition of Done and is potentially shippable at the end of each Sprint.

The current version of the Scrum Guide is a little less prescriptive about this than its previous versions, but it does still state:

“In order to provide value, the Increment must be usable.”

- Scrum Guide

Suppose the code functions only on the developer’s machine, and there are still two sprints’ worth of user stories to complete, plus a Release Sprint focused solely on integration testing and deployment. In that case, it becomes challenging to convincingly argue that the increment is truly usable.

Works Consulted

  • Does Scrum hold up to scrutiny? — The Increment

  • Agile Needs to Be Both Iterative and Incremental

  • Why Getting to Done Matters in Scrum

  • Scrum Guide


Just as each piece in a puzzle represents tangible progress towards completing the entire picture, so does each ‘Done Increment’ in a project signify concrete advancement toward the final Product Goal

Key to this process is the adherence to the team’s Definition of Done, ensuring each increment is complete, integrates well, and prepares the project for future additions. Like carefully placing each puzzle piece to avoid disrupting the emerging picture, each ‘Done Increment’ contributes to the broader project landscape, maintaining momentum and integrity. This approach underscores the importance of continual progress and built-in quality, reflecting a journey of ongoing development rather than just aiming for a final product.


Previous Article
Done Increment
Miranda Dulin

Miranda Dulin

Scrum Master

Table Of Contents

What Is a Characteristic of a Done Increment
What Does Done Increment Mean?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Works Consulted

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