There is more to Done than we know about.

Since the Agile Community is looking to manufacturing for so much wisdom these days, let’s look at what Done means when spoken by a manufacturing professional.  First there is Done at a workcenter, meaning what I built there meets a predefined acceptance criteria that apply to one some or all of the parts made there.  In manufacturing, no part can be consider part of WIP unless it has met the acceptance criteria of the last workcenter it passed through. This is because manufacturing has a couple more definitions of Done that are more comparable to what we think of. Done can also refer to one of two very carefully specific definitions of done, both of benefit the on-line computer shoppers of the world.

First there is MEI which means Manufacturing End Item and represents all the components needed to make the final assembly of what you the customer order. Second there is the CEI or customer end item which is what you buy. These two terms are core to the shopping on the web. When you select the stuff you want on your, iPhones,  personalized bathrooms, or your next auto all work because of MEI and CEI.  The choices you have for building your computer, like disks, and memory, different optical drives not to mention the skins you can wrap them in all reflect MEI’s or Manufacturing End Items. They can be combined because of an extensive Quality integration effort that assures all the bits do fit and will work properly. When they are stuck together they fill your order which defines DONE for your Customer End Item or CEI. So having multiple definitions of DONE can actually add value, as long as you pay attention to the quality needed to integrate all the parts at the end.

Don’t worry, manufacturing has kept up with the times as more and more manufacturing has taken to Modular Manufacturing. In fact in this global economy entire manufacturing systems are designed to be modular so that not only the parts are broken into smaller and smaller levels of DONE but so are the manufacturing steps. For those interested see “A hybrid methodology for synthesis of Petri net models for manufacturing systems”( So in a very real sense the high tech geek world we live in is about three generations behind the guys on the factory floor because most of what they are doing to determine discrete points of Done is to base it on measurable value Pretty cool huh?  Oh yeah they have been using some form of a task board and dependent demand planning  in a pull mode (AKA Kanban) for about 500 years.

Now to make this happen each step has its own QA, QC and Test criteria, patterns and harnesses. This means that if someone down stream figures a way to get folks to want people a choice in the type of metal used in their iPhone 8 antenna, the manufacturing step that makes the antenna will be ready to provision the web page where people choose the metal for the antenna – and the time to market will be the speed at which you can key in the changes to the web page.

So how close are we – software – are becoming the choke point in this whole innovation stream? We could be, if we insist on  sticking with what we are comfortable and wait to the end of the cycle to get the work tested and then have problems logged; wait until the next meeting to get needed changes through some form of CCB; wait for an optimally utilized Product Owner to have time to approve the work, and then have to wait in line while an understaffed and over committed QA group hand crafts test cases 12 timezones away to start this cycle all over again.

If however we develop defined criteria for each step of the process and, like the modular manufacturing world, base our breakdown on what is valuable to the ‘on-line’ shopper mindset.  Who knows what could happen?  Perhaps discussion that don’t get into what done is.

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