2 min read

Why you should care about a Definition of Ready

Nailing down a great definition of ready, and sticking with it, reduces the number of blockers the team may come across, which ensures they can consistently bring value to the users they're building for.
"Lack of clarity is the number-one time-waster. Always be asking, 'What am I trying to do? How am I trying to do it.'"

― Brian Tracy

Working agreements are an incredibly important aspect of a successful agile team, and while most individuals in the agile space will be familiar with the Definition of Done, I've found the Definition of Ready is a key aspect of working agreements as well.

Nailing down a great definition of ready, and sticking with it, reduces the number of blockers the team may come across, which ensures they can consistently bring value to the users they're building for. For newer teams it's also a great catalyst for enhancing self-organisation processes, aiding them in recognising both positive and negative behaviours that may impact the team.

A Definition of Ready is an agreement made by the team, collaboratively, around when a story, task or spike is ready to be refined by the team and brought into a sprint.

I've found in my experience that a "checklist" style approach to Definition of Ready worked best for the teams I've been a part of so far. It's used as a sort of run sheet for the item's we're looking to start work on.

An example of this might be:

  • Does the description have the details including any input values required to implement the user story?
  • Does the user story have clear and complete acceptance criteria?
  • Does the user story address the business need?
  • Can we measure the acceptance criteria?
  • Is the user story small enough to be implemented in a short amount of time, but large enough to provide value to the customer?

Most importantly, creating a definition of ready is pointless if it isn't regularly used and kept up to date, evolving over time.
As new team members come on board they may have a different style of working that meshes well with the team, but approaches work differently. Their opinions are just as valid, and the team should discuss if new items need to be added to the definition of ready.

In general, even if the team members don't change for a period of time it's best to review all agreements to ensure it still reflects the teams values. Typically this is done every 3 - 6 months, but of course can vary from team to team.