I was at a client recently and one VP was convinced that Agile was “untrue” and there was no way it could possibly work. The problem was that he had never heard of backlog grooming or getting stories ready. Once he saw the infographic below, the penny finally dropped and he understood how this crazy thing called Scrum can possibly work with user stories.

READY READY and Backlog Grooming


Jeff Sutherland points out the the best way to go fast is to have a definition of done (or “done done”) that means the software is shippable (coded, tested, documented, etc.).

The second best accelerator is to get stories ready (or “ready ready”) before the sprint planning meeting. For me, “ready ready” means that people understand stories well enough for the team to have a productive Sprint Planning meeting. Not one that takes ages and ages and stops because people have to catch a train or pick up their kids at daycare.

The purpose of the diagram is to provide a conceptual model for how stories get to be in a “ready” state. People need to talk about them and maybe do a little leg work. Who is responsible for getting stories ready? The Team! (Not the Product Owner as some might say). So good teams spend ~10% or their time getting ready for the next Sprint and ~90% on the current Sprint. Please note the amount of time will vary by team and project – 10% is a conceptual number.

Of course, most teams fall into the trap of focussing so much energy on the current Sprint they fall into the vicious cycle of low quality planning meetings and disorganized Sprints.

What if it takes more than “a little work” to get a story ready or to spilt a story? No problem, just create a Technical Spike story so that the whole team can tackle this tough story together. The outcome or acceptance test of the spike is that the story is split and that all the upcoming stories are “ready”.

The next rows in the diagram show that some people on the team may spend more time getting stories ready than others. For example, architects, SME (Subject Matter Experts), etc.  User Experience designers are often focussed on the Sprint ahead while docs folks are mostly on the last Sprint. Again the numbers here are conceptual.

Here are some other good posts on getting stories Ready:

Happy Scrum!