What is a definition of ready?
Welcome to part 5 of our scrum master interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of scrum masters and agile coaches in interviews and client engagements.
I suppose this is a good interview question because it tests what people understand of popular phrases and jargon within the industry, so let’s give this a go.
So, what is a ‘definition of ready?’
It is simply a made-up term. It doesn’t mean anything in relation to scrum or agile, nor is it mentioned anywhere in the scrum guide or agile manifesto.
Definition of done
Some people view ‘definition of ready’ in the same light as the ‘definition of done’, which is important in both scrum and agile frameworks. An agreement between the scrum team as to what constitutes a complete product or feature that is ready for release to customers and end users.
In essence, what state must the item achieve to be considered ready for release.
In some agile environments, a ‘definition of done’ constitutes the state an item needs to have achieved before it is passed onto another team or department within the organization.
So, a definition of done is simply a predetermined or pre-agreed standard that must be achieved for the product backlog item to be considered ‘good enough’ to release to the next phase of its journey.
Another context within which we see teams refer to ‘definition of ready’ is during the backlog refinement and sprint planning phases.
A user story or backlog item often is a complex piece of work to be completed or requires that a complex problem be solved.
At first glance, it may be confusing to developers.
They might not understand the real problem or understand why this item has been prioritized over other items in the backlog, and so they require additional information and insight into the item before committing to the work.
This is known as backlog refinement where the scrum team will interrogate the backlog, identify which items need to be broken down into smaller parts and which items are considered ‘ready’ to bring into the sprint.
If the backlog item is small, valuable, and offers little resistance in terms of getting the work done, the team will consider the item ‘ready’, and if it isn’t that it may require additional information and insight before being considered ‘ready’ or rejected for the upcoming sprint.
In essence, we are talking about the state of play.
- What still needs to happen before the item can be transitioned to the sprint backlog?
- Do we have all the information and insight we need to tackle the problem/opportunity?
- Who do we need to talk to for greater insight into the problem being solved?
- Do we understand why this item is valuable to customers?
- Do we understand how to solve the problem, as it is, or do we need to break it down?
And so forth.
Identifying what needs to happen before the team can commit to building the feature or solving the problem. Achieving the necessary state for the team to feel confident that they can do the work properly and effectively.
Summary of ‘Definition of Ready’.
The scrum guide does refer to the readiness of items to be considered for sprint planning, but it doesn’t speak of a ‘definition of ready’. That’s just some colour and flavour added to something which isn’t complex to understand in the context of a scrum team.
If people are referring to a definition of ready, you don’t need to get worked up or caught up in scrum or agile dogma, you can simply have the conversation to clarify what they mean by a definition of ready and whether that is, in fact, simply a ‘definition of done’.
You might go as far as to host a conversation with the team to identify whether they are looking for a process of system to empower them to identify what is ready for the sprint planning event and what needs to go back onto the backlog for refinement.
Technical terms and jargon can be useful, but only if everyone in the team environment understands clearly what is meant by those terms and definitions. Transparency, in the scrum cannon, refers to a shared language and shared understanding so prioritize that and you’ll be good to go.
About John McFadyen
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