Tackle Life Together

A blog by Sally Waters

sally [at] homescrum .co.uk

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Definition of Done, Definition of Ready, and Acceptance Criteria

The following ideas are not all an official part of Scrum, but they are often used in conjunction with it as complementary techniques. Francis and I don’t use them in our Home Scrum, as we struggle as it is to cover the basics of Sprint Planning and task refinement, let alone these extras. Still, they are useful concepts, so I thought I would put a quick post together explaining them.

Acceptance criteria

A common feature on the ‘tickets’ (tasks) on a Scrum board in a coding team is a list of ‘acceptance criteria.’ For instance, if the task is to ‘Add an image slideshow on the About us page’, then the acceptance criteria would be there to answer the question of ‘how will we know if we’ve succeeded?’ So the acceptance criteria (AC) might include things like, ‘Make sure the slideshow can be navigated using the arrow keys as well as the mouse (so that it is more accessible to all users)’ and ‘Make sure the images are not too high a quality (so that the page isn’t really slow to load).’ When the task is completed, other members of the team check the work done against the list of acceptance criteria to make sure the task has been finished to the necessary standard.

An example of a corporate acceptance criteria, using the common ‘Given/When/Then’ framework. Credit

In Home Scrum, I reckon adding acceptance criteria is probably overkill for most tasks. We certainly have never found the will or energy to write them down on the back of each ticket—defining the task itself takes enough of our mental effort. However, I could see it being useful to negotiate a set of acceptance criteria if members of the household are having a disagreement about what standard to expect for a particular task. Just be careful that it is a true negotiation, and not just one member of the team imposing their own standards on another (e.g. a parent on a teenager) if the task could be done in a different way while still fulfilling its purpose without meeting such stringent criteria.

Definition of ready

A ‘definition of ready’ (DoR) is kind of like a set of acceptance criteria, but for any task you put on the board. It gives you a measure of whether your task is refined enough to actually do or not. The whole team should be involved in agreeing what the definition of ready should be. Ours is a short list: a task shouldn’t be too large (no more than 13 story points), it should be easy to visualise the steps of what needs to be done, it should be specific. Again, you don’t have to have a DoR at all, but it could certainly work in Home Scrum.

Definition of done

The ‘definition of done’ (DoD) actually is an official part of Scrum. It fulfils the same role as acceptance criteria do for a task—that is, it defines what actually constitutes ‘finished’ or ‘successful’—but for completing your Sprint Goal or ‘Increment’.

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