Definition of Ready

Is it REALLY Ready?

A Definition of Ready is a set of criteria decided by the team that defines when work is ready to begin. The goal of the Definition of Ready to help the team decide on the level of uncertainty that they are comfortable with taking on with respect to their work. Without that guidance, any work is fair game. That is a recipe for confusion and disaster.

When deciding on a Definition of Ready, there are certain minimum criteria that should always be there. These are:

  • Description of the value the work provides (Why do we want to do this?)
  • Testable Acceptance Criteria (When do we know we’ve done what we need to?)
  • The team has reviewed and agreed the work is ready (Has the team seen it?)

However, the context of a team can make many other criteria applicable. Other criteria could include:

  • Wireframes for new UI components
  • Contracts for APIs/services we depend on
  • All relevant test types identified for subtasks
  • Team estimate of the size of the story is no more than 2 days

The Definition of Ready is a living document that should evolve over time as the team works to make their delivery system more predictable. The most important thing is to actually enforce the Definition of Ready. If it’s not enforced, it’s completely useless.

  1. If any work in “Ready to Start” does not meet the Definition of Ready, move it back to the Backlog until it is refined.
  2. Any work that is planned for a sprint/iteration must meet the Definition of Ready. Do not accept work that isn’t ready!
  3. If work needs to be expedited, it needs to go through the same process. (Unless there is immediate production impact, of course)


  1. Using Behavior Driven Development is one of the best ways to define testable acceptance criteria.
  2. Definition of Ready is also useful for support tickets or other types of work that the team can be responsible for. It’s not just for development work!
  3. It’s up to everyone on the team, including the Product Owner, to make sure that non-ready work is refined appropriately.
  4. The recommended DoR for CD is that any story can be completed, either by the team or a single developer, in 2 days or less

Last modified December 15, 2023: Update work decomp tags (03a5308)