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Try to INVEST in Not Needing a Definition of Ready

Hopefully I lured you in because you’re looking for ways to make sure you don’t set yourself or your team up for failure. Look no further! Actually the first rule of online is you should look & learn further and not blindly trust an agile creative dude on the internet. Still I hope this visualization and background give you a nudge in the right direction. Could also have called it “How to Make a Good Story Great!”

> Free high-res download of visualization at bottom of post

When teams and organisations start out with working agile, they often struggle how much preparation they need to make sure the work flows. It doesn’t matter whether you work Scrum, Kanban, XP or <insert your agile team flavor here>. If you don’t put enough thinking into the work before you pick it up, you are often bound to crash. Halfway during the work you end up adjusting the goal, questioning the chosen direction, finding out you need others to finish it, and the list of hurt goes on and on and on…

What I teach teams I coach is that you might want to challenge work you want to pick up next against the INVEST acronym. After that you’re way less prone to failing because you thought about the right characteristics before jumping in. It supports the organization with splitting large chunks of work and making sure there is value in the things we do. It helps the team by making sure the experts can decide on how to do the work and that we know we will be able to finish it. You can see what INVEST stands for in the visualization. For more information you can read the explaining blog post below from the mastermind behind it; @Bill Wake.

INVEST in Good Stories, and SMART Tasks

The Scrum Guide has a chapter on the Definition of Done [web], but not on the Definition of Ready. Seeing how too often teams/organizations start treating the Definition of Ready as an ‘entry contract,’ I can relate to that decision. There is value in getting things straight before starting, not so much in blocking advancement. In the bigger picture it’s not so helpful if you keep sending stakeholders away and tell them to ‘sort it all out’ first. There is much more value in the team and stakeholders collaborating to create a common understanding. That way you help and educate them to come better prepared next time.

Would love to hear in the comments when you found this helpful or have other feedback.

> Here you can download a high-resolution image to print: Definition of Ready [pdf]


Also published on Medium.

6 Comments

  1. nativewired

    Apr 1, 2017 at 12:47

    Interesting 🙂
    I like INVEST, but do not see it as opposite of a definition of ready.
    More as a part of it 🙂

    • That’s the beauty of it, you can use it in whatever way suits you best. 🙂
      While you had the fipo, I was still writing a little addendum on the DoR, so in the last paragraph you can read my thoughts on that.

    • nativewired

      Apr 2, 2017 at 00:08

      Isn’t that cheating to just add stuff? 😀
      I agree that it is much better to collaborate – I like DoR to be more like a checklist; not to have everything done, but at least have a bit prepared 🙂
      A hecklist that is developed together

    • Agreed! My advice is to just ‘check off’ if you thought about these six characteristics. In my experience all checks you add on top of it make the DoR a much bigger thing than it should be.

  2. Alan Larimer

    Apr 6, 2017 at 19:24

    You should have titled the article “How to Make a Good Story Great!” as that is more accurate, but there are plenty of articles around writing good User Stories using INVEST. As an aside, User Stories aren’t specified in Scrum since it is a framework.

    “Product Backlog items that can be ‘Done’ by the Development Team within one Sprint are deemed ‘Ready’ for selection in a Sprint Planning” (http://scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html)

    Just as the Definition of “Done” (DoD) is an “exit contract” for an Increment, a Definition of “Ready” (DoR) is meant to be an “entry contract” for a Product Backlog item into the Sprint Backlog. The INVEST standard simply specifies an implementation for a DoR.

    Your example sounds like teams and organizations are attempting to use a DoR as an “entry contract” for the Product Backlog. That scenario is certainly an opportunity for improvement and enforcing INVEST doesn’t address that issue any differently.

    • Thanks for sharing your view. That title was indeed perfect if this was yet another article about the INVEST acronym, but that’s not my main point. Luckily it sounds like you indeed touch upon that main point. Just because the naming sounds a lot like Definition of Done (exit criteria), doesn’t mean one should treat the Definition of Ready as the opposite (entry criteria).
      My advice is to NOT use the DoR as an entry contract, but I encourage (never enforce!) it as a guideline to what one should consider before putting work on the sprint backlog. Of course work can be on the product backlog even if it’s unrefined, that’s what the thing is meant for. Hope this clarifies the last things that seemed unclear from the concise blog post.

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