How a Definition of Ready improves team productivity

33% of what's on your backlog is junk
Agile Arthur
Freelance Facilitator
Last updated: 
August 29, 2023
How a Definition of Ready improves team productivity

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Table of contents


33% of what's on your backlog is junk

That's right. One out of three items on your backlog will not help your customers.

Three things are causing this:

  • COMMITMENT: Once your team starts working on something, they feel they have to finish it.  
  • LACK OF VALUE: No one checked with the customer if your solution actually solves a problem.
  • UNCLARITY: Your team members are not sure what a successful execution of the work of looks like.

There's a checklist below for you to improve your team's backlog and productivity, but first let's look a some examples.


Definition of Ready (DoR)

With a "Definition of Ready" checklist, your team will only commit to work that is actionable, nothing else. It works because you have clear agreements about your team standards.

It's like preparing all the ingredients before you start to cook. But for teams.

Plus, the only thing you need to make it work is to look at it every time you pick up new work…

Curious to know how?

Before starting your next Sprint, make your next backlog priorities Ready.

Some teams are really strict about their Definition of Ready. Some are a little more relaxed.

Here are 3 simple steps to implement a "Definition of Done" for your team:

  1. Start small and agree on five things you and your team want to put on your Definition of Ready checklist.
  2. Use your checklist to make your top priorities for the next Sprint Ready.
  3. Update your Definition of Ready. After finishing the work, improve the checklist your next Retrospective.

A Definition of Ready example for your team can be:

  • 👍Agreement. The whole team agrees that the work is Ready.
  • Clarity. It is clear what you will show to stakeholders when this work is Done.
  • 🐭Small. The work can be finished within a sprint.
  • 🤲Negotiable. There is space for discussion about the work. Maybe the team comes up with better approaches.
  • 💙Valuable. When the work is done, it must deliver value to the stakeholders. Ask them before starting the work.


The ROI of the Definition of Ready

Need to convince your team to give this a try?

Alright, let's say your team is finishing 40 tasks per week. A productivity improvement of just 10% would mean finishing 160 extra tasks per year.

I have seen teams double in productivity.

Not bad for a checklist.


  1. Read and understand this tool.
  2. Write down your teams current weekly velocity.
  3. Implement the Definition of Ready in your team.
  4. Measure the increase in productivity.
  5. Share your improvement stats with us!

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