Why You Need “Definition of Done” and “Definition of Ready” Lists

A sprint and a recipe have much in common, or at least have enough in common that Venkatesh Krishnamurthy is willing to use it as a comparison. Much like a chef makes a mental checklist to make sure the food they prepare is ready to be served, definition of ready (DOR) and definition of done (DOD) lists help build confidence during a sprint initiation. By knowing what done looks like, and what ready looks like, team members are able to have a better grasp on what they are aiming for, and what success looks like. The lists also have other benefits, of course: In addition to helping the team check sprint readiness, DOR checklists expose inherent weaknesses of systems. In one case study, a team without a DOR checklist consistently failed to deliver value toward the end of each sprint. However, upon introducing DOR lists, a major issue was discovered followed by a clear solution. Similarly, having a good DOD list reduces the risk of misunderstanding as well as the communication gaps between the delivery teams and the stakeholders. Always remember to have both DOR and DOD lists together; signing up for a DOD list without a DOR counterpart could result in stressful situations as the teams keep signing up for things without checking their readiness. As anybody involved in a team knows, however, it’s likely that checklists are underutilized or rejected by teams summarily. Krishnamurthy thinks this is due to the list being constructed by only one person without input from the team, the team fears getting in trouble for incomplete lists, and the like. Teams can avoid these troubles by having the creation of the lists take place early and with the involvement of all who will be utilizing them.

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