Using the Kanban Board to Implement a Definition of Ready

More and more teams are adopting a Definition of Ready (also known as DoR or Readiness Criteria) to avoid starting work on PBIs that are ill-defined, such as those that do not have clearly defined acceptance criteria. While some teams can do this implicitly, others want a formal definition to explicitly communicate this working agreement with their Product Owner and stakeholders. Some teams want to make this definition actionable, such as creating tasks to move a PBI through each Ready “gate”.

Creating and associating (non development) tasks prior to the Sprint seems like a lot of overhead and has a smell of waste, but it did get me thinking. For teams using Visual Studio, they could leverage the Backlog (Kanban) Board to enact their definition of “Ready” by adding new columns under the New or Approved states. I like using the Approved state because to me that means that the Product Owner has acknowledged the PBI as being something valuable. PBIs in the New state have yet to capture the Product Owner’s interest.

Assuming a simple Definition of Ready (based loosely on INVEST):

  • Has value
  • Acceptance Criteria defined
  • Dependencies identified
  • Sized/Estimated

You can customize your Kanban board appropriately:


Notice that I changed the original “Approved” column to “Has Value” and then added 3 additional ones. All 4 columns still map to the Approved state of the PBI, so the underlying work item type doesn’t need to change – which is the beauty of this approach. I also removed the WIP limits for these columns by setting the values 0. Feel free to use WIP limits, if that makes sense for your team.

Here’s an example of the customized Kanban board:


Happy Ready’ing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *