A Product Backlog Item is deemed “Ready” if the Development Team feels they can safely turn it into a Done Product Increment within the time-box of a Sprint. The Development Team is the ultimate judge of readiness. Judgment is passed by taking an item into a Sprint.
Getting an item Ready is a shared responsibility between the Development Team, the Product Owner and its stakeholders. The ongoing activity of Product Backlog Refinement helps getting Product Backlog Items Ready.
Scrum requires having a shared understanding of all that is needed to create Releasable Product Increment. This shared understanding is reflected by our Definition of Done. Having a definition of Done serves artifact transparency.
Having a definition of ready is not a Scrum rule. It is a Scrum rule that only the Development Team is allowed to take items into a Sprint and to convert Product Backlog into Product Increment.
Good or bad?
A Development Team can make their guidelines for readiness transparent by creating their own definition of ready. This is a great practice if it is done to create transparency and to support collaboration between all involved.
Development Teams should always be willing to accept a certain level of uncertainty. Product Backlog will never enter the Sprint fully Done! The Scrum Team and its stakeholders should trust the empiricism that Scrum provides to deal with this uncertainty.
If a Development Team uses a definition of Ready as a tollgate to reject work, without collaborating with its environment, this is a bad thing. If a definition of Ready is imposed on a Development Team, it undermines self-organization of the Development Team towards the goal of delivering value through Releasable Product Increments. If a definition of Ready is imposed on a Development Team and its stakeholders, it impedes open and constructive collaboration between them.
In Scrum, Done trumps Ready. Build your product around a motivated Development Team and trust them to get the work Done.
You might be interested in the following resources:
- Roman Pichler has a great view on Ready from the perspective of the Product Owner.
- On the website of ScrumInc, Jeff Sutherland describes what a Definition of Ready might look like.
- Mike Cohn has good tips on using a definition of ready correctly.
- The INVEST acronym can help you to find your guidelines for readiness.
- The Agile Alliance Glossary has some additional background information on the concept of a definition of Ready.
- Scrums description of “Ready” is described in the section on the Product Backlog artifact.
- The Manifesto for Agile Software Development values “customer collaboration over contract negotiation”. Keep that in mind when crafting ready guidelines.