Leaders face a similar dilemma to software developers: it’s easy to produce busywork but it’s hard to produce meaningful results that drive efficiently toward a broader vision.
This is why software methodologists developed the “Definition of Done”—a shared understanding of what constitutes a completed and verifiable work product.
The 2012 movie “Lincoln” showcases the machinations of one of the greatest leaders in U.S. history.
Let’s examine Lincoln’s equivalent of “Done” increments.
⚖️ Pass an anti-slavery amendment before my second inauguration.
✅ Rush the anti-slavery amendment to the House of Representatives for debate. Done.
✅ Secure supporting votes from lame duck Democrats. Done.
✅ Seize the port of Wilmington. Done.
✅ Engage a Confederate peace commission while keeping them at arms’ length from Washington. Done.
✅ Use every last drop of my political and personal capital to get the amendment passed by Congress. Done.
In software terms, even as the dynamic political situation shifted, Lincoln drove each incremental action to a “done state”.
Have a look at your calendar for next week—what percent of your time will be invested in activities that are driving toward a proper definition of done?