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What do you do when a product owner temporarily suspends testing due to other priorities?

In Agile practices, the definition of done (DoD) is a critical component that ensures quality and consistency. But what happens when a product owner decides to suspend the definition of done due to a large marketing campaign? Let’s explore how this decision aligns with Scrum values and what it means for your team.

Understanding Scrum Values

Scrum is built on five core values: Focus, Openness, Courage, Commitment, and Respect. Each of these values plays a crucial role in guiding the actions and decisions of the team.


Focus ensures that the team is working on the most important tasks. Suspending the definition of done to meet a marketing deadline can align with this value if the intent is to prioritize critical work.

  • Pros: The team focuses on delivering the most crucial aspects of the product.
  • Cons: Sacrificing quality to meet deadlines can lead to long-term issues.


Openness involves transparent communication about decisions and their implications. If the product owner is openly communicating the reasons for suspending the definition of done, it demonstrates a level of transparency.

  • Pros: The team is informed about the reasons behind the decision.
  • Cons: Openness alone does not justify lowering quality standards.


Courage is about doing the right thing despite challenges. It requires the team to speak up if they believe suspending the definition of done compromises the product’s quality.

  • Pros: Encourages the team to voice their concerns.
  • Cons: It takes courage to resist pressure and maintain standards.


Commitment to quality is embedded in the definition of done. Suspending it can compromise the team’s commitment to delivering high-quality work.

  • Pros: Allows for short-term flexibility.
  • Cons: Undermines long-term commitment to quality.


Respecting the team’s professional standards and integrity is paramount. Asking developers to work to lower standards can be seen as disrespectful.

  • Pros: May align with immediate business goals.
  • Cons: Disrespects the team’s professional standards and can damage morale.

The Role of the Definition of Done

The definition of done is created by the Scrum team, including the product owner, Scrum Master, and developers. It sets the minimum quality standards for the product. Suspending it for a marketing campaign raises several issues:

  • Quality Compromise: Lowering standards can lead to defects and future rework.
  • Professional Integrity: Developers are asked to work below their professional standards.
  • Customer Impact: Substandard products can affect customer satisfaction and trust.

Practical Alternatives

Instead of suspending the definition of done, consider these alternatives:

1. Reduce Scope

Focus on delivering a smaller set of features to the highest quality standard.

  • Benefits: Maintains quality while meeting deadlines.
  • Implementation: Identify the minimum viable product (MVP) that satisfies the marketing campaign’s needs.

2. Adjust Timelines

Negotiate with stakeholders to adjust the timelines if quality cannot be compromised.

  • Benefits: Ensures the product meets quality standards.
  • Implementation: Communicate the risks of rushing the product to stakeholders.

3. Conduct a Retrospective

If the marketing campaign demands more than what can be delivered with quality, conduct a retrospective to understand the planning gaps.

  • Benefits: Prevents future occurrences.
  • Implementation: Analyze how the campaign’s timelines were set and identify improvements.

Handling Conflicting Pressures

When faced with conflicting pressures from marketing and quality, it’s essential to:

  • Communicate Risks: Clearly communicate the risks of suspending the definition of done.
  • Seek Compromise: Work with stakeholders to find a middle ground that does not compromise core values.
  • Maintain Integrity: Uphold professional standards and integrity.

Example Conversation with Stakeholders

Product Owner: “We understand the importance of the marketing campaign. However, suspending the definition of done could lead to significant quality issues. Let’s focus on delivering the core features with high quality. We can plan a follow-up release for additional features.”

Conclusion: Upholding Scrum Values

Suspending the definition of done for a marketing campaign can conflict with Scrum values. While it might seem like a quick fix, it often leads to long-term issues. Instead, focus on maintaining quality, communicating openly, and seeking alternatives that align with Scrum values. This approach ensures sustainable success and maintains the integrity of the team’s work.

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author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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