Why You Need "Definition of Done" and "Definition of Ready" Lists

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Much has been written about definition of ready (DOR) and definition of done (DOD) lists, but not a lot has been written about the lists’ importance. Additionally, not very much has been written about the issues surrounding these lists.

DOD and DOR lists are similar to the checklists that restaurant chefs use while creating recipes as well as before serving food to customers.

Chefs validate their mental checklists to ensure the availability of ingredients before preparing food. In the absence of this checklist, chefs have to run around looking for each ingredient, which not only wastes time but also stresses out everyone.

I would like to use the chef analogy to show the importance of DOR and DOD lists. Having the right DOR checklist provides you confidence to begin a sprint, and the right DOD list improves a team’s credibility in front of the product owner.

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.

I have observed that teams often ignore DOR and DOD lists despite having them. Here are a few reasons I think teams dump the lists: The list is prepared by one person without the team’s consensus; the list does not reflect the reality of the situation; the team members fear crucifixion for not following the “done checklist”; and the lists were created in the middle of the project without any hand-holding that guides team members.

When are you going to create the DOR and DOD checklists for your project?

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Venkatesh Krishnamurthy

Venkatesh Krishnamurthy is an author, speaker and a coach. In his 15+ years of career in the software industry, he has played different roles as a developer, architect and an Agile coach.