Ready and Done

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Are we ready?

Are we ready?When leading development teams, I see most of the wasted activities happen during the development phase.  If work is not ready, before the team begins development, there can be delays waiting for clarifications from the business.  If acceptance criteria is not clearly defined, before the team begins development, work can go on and on trying to appease the customer.  What your team needs is a clear definition of “Ready to Work” and a clear definition of “Done with Work”.  Though definitions vary from team to team and organization to organization, it’s imperative that you do it.  It’s also imperative the team writes the definitions, not someone in an ivory tower.

As with all of our clients, I stress the need to have a minimal agreement on both definitions before work is started.  When defining both the entrance and exit criteria, all major parties within the team need to be involved, to lower risks that something will be missed.

Below are examples of the definitions or ready and done.  Notice that we consulted Analysts, Testers, and Developers.  For your team or organization, you may consult UX designers, DBAs, Architects or others.  Don’t make your definitions overly onerous.  Just create something that is just good enough and go from there.

Example of a Definition of Ready

  • Analyst – User story sufficiently defined and mapped from requirements
  • Tester – Acceptance criteria developed
  • Developer – User story is estimated and no known blocking dependencies exist within the sprint

Example of a Definition of Done

  • Analyst – Working system reviewed and User Story accepted via Automated Test or Manual Inspection
  • Tester – Test cases pass.  All critical and high severity bugs fixed and other bugs identified and tracked
  • Developer – Deployed to test environment and Code Review complete

So, what does your team require as part of your definition of ready or done? Do you have definitions?

As a side note, if you’re preparing for the PMI-ACP exam, remember the team is responsible for the definition of done.

Image Sources: Pictofigo

Teaching Agile to a 5-Yr-Old


If you ever thought it was too early to teach your children Agile terminology or good management/leadership skills, you can stop now.  I wanted to teach our 5-year-old son a few new concepts.  If you can teach a 5-year-old, you should be able to teach a 45-year-old….right?  Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  I actually think kids grasp these concepts better than adults.  They don’t have years of baggage to contend with.

Now, let me preface the bulk of my post by saying, that at age 5, I could not read at all!  I think our son’s teacher has done an amazing job of getting the kids in her classroom reading at the level they do.

So, what is our goal?  Our son’s Kindergarten teacher sent home a “by the minute reading log”.  She identified how many minutes of reading she wanted each student to read in a month.  For February, the target was 50 minutes.  At first, our son acted very overwhelmed.

Oh Daddy, 50 minutes is SO much!

I assured him, he had a whole month to get there.  Let’s call this month a timebox.  In the timebox, the teacher wants you to finish as many stories as you can in the time given.  That’s it!  Now, some stories are going to be harder than others.  But, let’s focus on doing a little bit at a time and getting each story done.

To really understand the complexity of these stories, they were written for a 5-year-old.  They only take about 5 minutes to read.  So, each story will equal 5 minutes.  To make it fun, let’s use story points instead of minutes!

The last concept I wanted him to grasp was velocity.  Velocity is the number of story points we can get in the timebox.  Just know, you don’t get credit if you don’t finish a story!

If you look at the “reading log” image, you’ll see our actual total velocity was 120.  The stakeholder in all of this, his Kindergarten teacher, would be happy if our velocity was a mere 50.

What was really exciting was telling our son, by the end of week 2, that he had met his goal.  If the stakeholder is satisfied with the 50 point velocity, I think we will start having a FedEx Day once a week.  Just like my teams, I don’t want to burn him out.  We need to find a balance and a stable velocity everyone can be happy with.


Imagine if this was you and your team.



My Merge of GTD and Kanban


What is the next actionI’m not going sit here an boast of being some kind of expert on Kanban or guru of personal productivity.  I’m just a Project Manager/Leader who is always keeping his eyes and ears open for newer or better ways to manage time or work.  I believe you should always try to eliminate non-value-added processes, resulting in a positive impact of customer satisfaction, while reducing support costs.  How do you do that?  You get it done as effectively and efficiently as possible.

I recently completed Getting Things Done by David Allen.  It was an interesting book.  Though I use paperless processes to “get things done”, David offered one bit of advice that resonated with me.  To advance a task or activity to more of an actionable conclusion, he said to ask “What’s the next action?”

This parallels what I do with my Kanban (task) board.  I currently have 4 columns:  Backlog, Work In Progress (WIP), Blocked, Done.  When a prioritized task can not be worked, I put the task card (user story) in the “blocked” column.  I then ask myself the question.  What’s the next action? Without asking yourself that simple question, your task may be blocked longer than necessary.  You have to understand there may be 3 or 4 steps you need to complete before you can unblock your task and get it back to WIP.  So, ask the question.

As to not ignore the obvious, I recommend you write your tasks in a standard user story format. As a [perspective], I want to [activity], so I can [desired outcome]

It doesn’t matter if you use a physical or virtual Kanban (task) board.  I recommend following 3 simple rules:

  1. Keep your tasks visible
  2. Keep your tasks limited
  3. Keep your tasks actionable