The Definition of Ready in Scrum

By Roman Pichler, 16th December 2010
Picture by Austris Augusts, published on Unsplash under the Creative Commons Zero license

“Ready are you? What know you of ready?” says Yoda to Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movie “The Empire Strikes Back”. Just as it’s important for Luke to understand what “ready” means, so is it for product owners. Luckily, you don’t have to become a Jedi to find out. Reading this post will be enough.

Why Ready Matters

The idea that the high-priority product backlog items should be “ready” or “workable” dates back to the first Scrum book published in 2002. Ready items can be pulled into the sprint by the team and quickly turned into a product increment, as the following image illustrates.

Ready and Done
If the user stories that are likely to be worked on in the next sprint aren’t ready, then the team will struggle to create a product increment. It is therefore important to ensure that there are enough ready items on the product backlog before a sprint starts.

Remember: A sprint is a function that takes high-priority items and turns them into a product increment. If you don’t pay attention to what goes into a sprint, it’s garbage in, garbage out. And garbage, as we know from the first Star Wars movie, is not a good place to be stuck in.

What Ready Means

A “ready” item should be clear, feasible and testable, as I suggest in my book Agile Product Management with ScrumA story is clear if all Scrum team members have a shared understanding of what it means. Collaboratively writing user stories, and adding acceptance criteria to the high-prtiority ones facilitates clarity.

An item is testable if there is an effective way to determine if the functionality works as expected. Acceptance criteria ensure that each story can be tested. As a rule of thumb, I like to employ three to five acceptance criteria per user story.

A story is feasible if it can be completed in one sprint, according to the definition of done. This implies two things: The item must be small enough, and it must not be too complex. I prefer to work with stories that can be implemented and tested within a few days, as this allows the product owner to provide feedback on the software during the sprint.

Ready stories are the output of the product backlog grooming work. To put it differently, your grooming activities should result in ready stories. The best way to ensure that the high-priority product backlog items are ready is to work on the backlog together with the development team: The team members are the readers and consumers of the stories–they turn them into working, tested, and documented software.

What a Ready Story Looks Like

A ready story is a detailed user story with a narrative and acceptance criteria. It should also be clear if there are any story-specific operational qualities such as performance, and what the user interface design roughly looks like. You can simply capture the qualities on constraint cards, and the design on a piece of paper. The artefacts are then attached to the story, as the picture below illustrates:

Sample Ready User Story with Constraint and UI Sketch

Article Name
The Definition of Ready in Scrum
Find out what the Definition of Ready is and how it helps you create effective product increments in Scrum.
Pichler Consulting

Learn More

You can learn more about the definition of ready with the following:


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