An Agile Definition of Ready (DoR)

tl;dr: What do we need to know in order to commit to doing this work?

“Ready are you? What know you of ready?” – Yoda

definition of ready agile example

  • Does your scrum team ever have cards that get carried thru 2 or 3 sprints until they hit the done column?
  • Have you ever grabbed a card all primed and ready to dive in and write code, only to find out you really don’t have everything you need to get it over the goal line?
  • Have you ever heard “This work is done, well sorta….”

Your team can avoid these scenarios by applying a clear “Definition of Ready.”

Just as all story and task cards need to fulfill a definition of “done” to be “DONE-done” during a sprint, these cards also need to fulfill a definition of “ready” to be called “READY-ready” – that is to be brought into a sprint in the first place during planning. Why do I exercise these double constructions? To make a point: “almost done” and “almost ready” both round down to zero. We’re not playing horseshoes or tossing hand grenades.

A Definition of Ready (DoR):

  • Provides the scrum team a way to “push back” on accepting fuzzy items into a sprint (see What To Do With Not Ready Backlog Items below)
  • Allows the team to confidently commit card by card during sprint planning
  • Lays a foundation for the team to achieve a consistent burndown rate, and a predictable velocity pattern.
  • Creates a state of efficient flow, eliminating the waste associated with context shifts and handoffs.

Get to Ready – Thru Consistent Backlog Refinement

Backlogs can too easily become like the kitchen junk drawer. Collecting a lot of things… some of which might never create value.

Refining a backlog periodically by making sure items fit the team’s Definition of Ready will help ensure that items near or at the top of the list can be moved into a sprint during planning – and confidently committed to getting to done during the iteration.

Refinement can take place anytime, but I recommend doing it either in the middle or toward the end of the current sprint.

Definition of Ready Checklist

Following are lines of inquiry to see if a task or story is Ready:

Does the Team Clearly Understand the Goal?

The goal of a card (story/task) is clear if:

  • The team understands the business value of the card
  • The team knows pretty much where they are going
  • The team knows pretty much how they are going to get there
  • The team is able to relative size, or estimate, the effort
  • The team understands expectations and measurements for success

If any of the above bullets are untrue, then the card does not meet the first gate of the Definition of Ready. And there’s really no point in going any further. Fix that first.

The Next Ready Gate – Deployment

Could it be deployed right now? Is everything needed in place:

  • Development environment
  • End-to-end testing environment
  • Jenkins jobs
  • VMs or other infrastructure needs
  • Stored procedures or other data access needs
  • Database permissions

Good so far?

Let’s keep going…

  • Is the architecture clear?
  • Does the team know the tolerances for implementation? Think about how many users, uploads, response time expectations, data retention policies, etc.
  • Are design mock-ups and assets complete and available? (Note that lorem ipsum is not complete.)
  • Can the feature/story be made smaller or leaner?
  • Are there any external dependencies that are not yet Done?

What To Do With “Not Ready” Backlog Items

When a team comes across a card during refinement that’s not ready, but they intend to get some movement on it, they should consider cloning it and adding the words “analysis” “prototype” or “discovery” to the summary. And then making that clone’s DoD includes getting the original card “ready” for a subsequent sprint. (And the clone is typically timeboxed, and not story pointed.)

DoR & DoD: Take the Duo for a Test Drive

At your team’s next backlog refinement session, try applying the Definition of Ready concept – see if it brings a different kind of focus to the following planning ceremony. Then see how the DoR/DoD combo impacts your next sprint… I’m betting that when your project backlog is ready-ready you’ll be done-done without much if any aggravation…and certainly not a hockey stick ending to your burndown…

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top