Sprint Goal is a single product objective shared by the Scrum Team that describes the purpose of the Sprint and ensures that everyone moves in the same direction. A simply-stated goal makes it easier to prioritize Product Backlog Items, assess whether tests and feedback are relevant to the goal, and summarize the work currently being done when asked by stakeholders. Sprint Goals are hard and not well understood. As a result, many teams skip or avoid them, but this is a missed opportunity.
A Sprint Goal isn’t imposed on the team by the Product Owner. Rather, the PO explains what business objective they’re attempting to meet then the team work with the Product Owner to describe what is feasible. So the Sprint Goal is something that is created through negotiation. Since all team members are participating in setting the Sprint Goal, they have a greater sense of ownership and purpose during the Sprint.
The Sprint Goal provides focus during the Sprint, especially during Daily Scrum. Some teams even go so far as to add a question like “Do we still believe in our Sprint Goal?” as part of the Daily Scrum.
When Teams Struggle to Set
To set a good Sprint goal, it requires the PO to prioritize the product backlog in a manner that a coherent purpose exists at the top of product backlog. When I see POs struggling with this, it is often a hint that their overall business strategy is unclear. (Consider looking at Impact Mapping, Story Mapping and the strategic tools to help in this case.)
Some teams make their goal process-oriented (e.g. complete all the User Stories committed in a Sprint, or complete 7 user stories) to help them get to a basic level of effectiveness. This misses much of the purpose of the tool. A Sprint Goal should help the team better understand the business objective so that their work rises above the level of just finishing tasks.
For reluctant teams, one trick that can work is brinksmanship. “If you don’t set a real product oriented Sprint Goal, I will set a bad one for you.” After doing that a few times, team members will likely start to participate in goal setting without provocation.
Questions for Better Sprint Goals
- Do we believe this goal is technical feasible?
- Will this goal interest stakeholders in the Sprint Review?
- Does the goal help the team better understand what they’re trying to achieve with the Sprint?
- If the Sprint isn’t going well, will this help the team refocus on the target?
- 7 Sprint Goal Patterns for Building Great Teams, Part One
- 7 Sprint Goal Patterns for Building Great Teams, Part Two
- A Template for Formulating Great Sprint Goals
- Creating Effective Sprint Goals
- Do we need a sprint goal? (Controversial. The authors recommend not using a Sprint Goal except under very particular circumstances.)
- Examples Of Real Sprint Goals
- Getting to Done: Creating Good Sprint Goals
- How to Write and Use a Sprint Goal (With 5 Templates)
- Is your Sprint Goal centred on deliverables rather than value and benefits?
- Scrum History — The evolution of the Sprint Goal
- Sprint Goals – Are They Important
- Sprint Goals — What Do They Really Need (With Examples)
Mark Levison has been helping Scrum teams and organizations with Agile, Scrum and Kanban style approaches since 2001. From certified scrum master training to custom Agile courses, he has helped well over 8,000 individuals, earning him respect and top rated reviews as one of the pioneers within the industry, as well as a raft of certifications from the ScrumAlliance. Mark has been a speaker at various Agile Conferences for more than 20 years, and is a published Scrum author with eBooks as well as articles on InfoQ.com, ScrumAlliance.org an AgileAlliance.org.
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