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Definition of Done vs Definition of Ready

Joel Norman Senior Consultant/Technical Specialist
Reading: Definition of Done vs Definition of Ready

“We forgot … we forgot to request… we forgot to request the subdomain level domain, and that lead time for DNS propagation is at least 48 hours, can someone tell marketing we can’t launch this tomorrow?”

It’s a simple oversight, forgetting something. Building software is a complex thing, prone to mistakes. In my own career as a developer, mistake to mistake, commit to revert. If only there was a checklist, something that could remind of what is necessary to be successful, something that could remind us of the important things, because we will forget.

Let’s review some basic facts to get everyone aligned.

  1. When work is Ready, it means we can engage upon it with high confidence it will be delivered, and if it is not delivered – we already forecasted the constraint.
  2. When work is done it means the work is complete.
  3. The Definition of Ready and Done are two checklists control how the team commits and delivers work.
  4. If work is not predictably getting to done, you’re probably not ready, yet.

In practice, the Definition of Ready must contain all the things that have hurt you in the past or could hurt you in the future. These items must be solved for before the work begins.

Outside of scheduling, the Definition of Ready is backlog refinement; hence, making things Ready. There are many activities a team can do to make the work Ready, but all activities should end with the Definition of Ready being completely checked.

If it takes much time to make things ready, that is an organizational challenge – it illustrates the complexity in the organization.  A complex process requires a complex checklist.  And when this checklist is recorded, used, and visible, it can be shared with the leadership when they ask, “How can I help? Or “What is it taking so long?”

The Definition of Done describes the target state. It must be informed by the Definition of Ready. It’s that simple. The anti-pattern adopted by most teams is to neglect either. Here are some examples to help you on your journey.

Here’s a list of some important things to consider when assessing your readiness. 

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