Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Maturing from Done to Ready

This isn't a new topic. It's been talked about for a few years now. I had a team lead ask me this week about maturing from getting your stories "done done" to getting them "ready." The source of his question was from an team assessment/test that a team completes each sprint. The test gives the team retrospective talking points that will allow them to Scrum the Scrum (as Sutherland would say).

On our assessment we ask this question (the questioned are listed in order of maturity, most mature being listed last):

What are the team's standards for assessing "done" (completeness)?

  • Team has no Definition of Done
  • Team has a Definition of Done that doesn't include testing
  • Team has a Definition of Done which produces potentially shippable software
  • Definition of Done is augmented for each story with acceptance criteria
  • Team has a Definition of Ready
This team lead's was confused that "ready" was most mature. I explained to him that the intent behind this question is really to gauge a team's ability to flow value. Immature teams don't finish stories within a sprint, i.e. not "DONE." Once teams learn to get stories done within a sprint they start to flow value more consistently. When a team reaches that point, the next level is to make sure that every story that is planned for a sprint is adequately prepared so that the team has an even better chance to complete that story, and potentially flow more value.

This article by Sutherland and Jakobsen is a must read (and Jakobsen presented it at Agile 2009): Scrum and CMMI: Going from Good to Great.

Ready stories:
  • Have been discussed by the product owner and team (maybe there are some wireframes, or mockups as part of the conversation)
  • Are clear to the team as to what is involved
  • Have clear acceptance criteria (maybe more than 1) to signal to the team when they have met the expectation of the product owner
  • Are estimated (estimation can only really be done when you have acceptance criteria)
By the time a team and the product owner scrub and groom the backlog, the stories should match the above description to consider them ready. If a team only plans a sprint of ready stories then they are less likely to create waste in the sprint going back and forth getting clarification from the product owner.

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