Exit criteria are a list of items to check off that define the end of any activity. Exit criteria can be defined for any activity you want to undertake: You can have exit criteria for cooking veggies to the desired doneness, or for a city tour to be sure you see all the sights, or for a meeting to assign action items for everyone! Exit criteria are helpful to tell you (and others involved) when to stop the activity. Specifically, for an agile project, having clear and concise exit criteria makes it easier to understand the scope and avoid going overboard while keeping a tab on your quality.
In my article published at Gurock https://blog.gurock.com/agile-exit-criteria/ , I have discussed some ways to structure your exit criteria at the sprint, user story, and task levels in an agile project.
The first rule for exit criteria is to have them defined up front, before beginning the activity.
For an agile project, let’s say we want to have exit criteria in place for the end of the sprint. We will need to work on defining them at the beginning of the sprint, or at the release-planning stage. Once the activity begins, the goal is to achieve all exit criteria by the end. We cannot have people defining or changing the planned exit criteria during execution of the activity, since that will not be upholding the quality standards set in the beginning.
The second rule is to have standard exit criteria for all similar activities. So, exit criteria defined for the sprint level apply to all sprints in that release, and exit criteria defined for the user story level apply to all user stories in all sprints. This upholds the same standard of quality and expectation of work required for each of these work units.
In the article, I have discussed sample Exit Criteria for Sprint, User Story or Task level and also shown how to create your own exit criteria based on your project’s and team’s context.
The important things to focus on are having the exit criteria defined up front and ensuring follow-through by sticking to the criteria throughout your release cycle. Being consistent with checking off everything on your exit criteria list ensures a smooth flow of high-quality work.