Is Your Team Focused with a Sprint Goal?

One of the 5 values of Scrum is Focus. Too often, I will ask Product Owners "What is the goal of this sprint"? Their response? "To get all of these Product Backlog Items done!" (and they look at me like...duh!)

My question is focused on ensuring that our Development Team has some semblance of focus for the Sprint. Most of the time, the Sprint is just a list of Product Backlog Items (in shotgun effect) that the Product Owner provides to the team. Then the team ends up assigning Product Backlog Items to each Development Team member (a separate problem we will talk about later, Product Backlog Items should be assigned to the team, not an individual).

So...what is a Sprint Goal? By definition in the Scrum Guide, it is the following:

"After the Development Team forecasts the Product Backlog items it will deliver in the Sprint, the Scrum Team crafts a Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal is an objective that will be met within the Sprint through the implementation of the Product Backlog, and it provides guidance to the Development Team on why it is building the Increment."

This means that the Sprint Goal should be a short description of the objective of the Sprint so the Scrum Team understands the objective of the Sprint. The Product Owner is a large part of the driver of this Sprint Goal. The team uses it to have a shared and unified understanding of the goal. The more important part is the "why". It is often hard to pinpoint the focus of the Sprint and there in lies the problem.

Focus means that the team should have some semblance of "large rocks" that they are trying to get done in the Sprint. They will have other things that are a bit smaller that they might work on as well (that fall out of the Sprint Goal), but they do need that Focus that we can work towards as a team during the Sprint.

For instance, if our Development Team is working on an eCommerce web site, the Sprint Goal might be something like "I want to see basic shopping cart functionality; add, remove, and update quantifies". So the team will select Product Backlog Items that match up to that goal and decide how much of it they can complete in the Sprint. That will allow the Product Owner to answer the business stakeholders or even customers when asked "what is the team working on this sprint?". Instead of saying "the team is working on JIRA 482, 212, 283, 382, 12, and 7", they are able to say "The team should be able to show us the basic shopping cart functionality such as add, remove, and update quantities".

The Sprint Goal will also help us understand if we are taking in changes that might endanger the Sprint Goal. Once the team has forecasted the Product Backlog Items for the Sprint; Scrum states there should be no changes to endanger the Sprint Goal. So if we want to change the submit button from silver to orange, we can ascertain if that is a change that would endanger the overall Sprint Goal (which most likely it is not).

The Sprint Goal charts a course for the Sprint, allows the team to focus on rocks for the Sprint, and allows us to communicate with our stakeholders. Next Sprint Planning session; try it out. Have the Product Owner deliver a Sprint Goal, the team then selects PBI's to meet that goal, and then communicate the goal to the stakeholders. This helps drive clarity into what the team is working on and helps provide focus for that team.

A shared understanding of the Sprint Goal is key to being agile.

Related Articles

Core Scrum Roles

Just like the US Government has 3 branches (Judicial, Executive, and Legislative Branches), Scrum has 3 roles. Many people compare the counter-balance of each roles in Scrum to that of the US Government. It's really about the checks and balances. But I truly believe it is even more than that...

Read More

So you want to do Scrum?

What do you truly want? I have spent a career helping organizations go from whatever process they are doing to wanting to be more agile. The request typically starts with "We would like you to come in and conduct some Scrum Training". Great, I love conducting workshops and helping people...

Read More

How To Grow Scrum at Your Company without a Heavy Framework

Now that your company’s mastered the Scrum framework at a team level, it may be time to expand it to multiple teams or areas of your organization. While you may be thinking you need to learn a scaling framework such as SAFe, Scrum@Scale, or LeSS; there are many things you...

Read More

Unlocking Agile's Power in the World of Data Science

In this episode of the "Agile Mentors" podcast, I discuss integrating Agile and Scrum practices in the world of data science. Tune in to gain insight into the importance of feedback, the stages of the SAS Enterprise Miner initiative, and how frameworks like OSEMN can enhance the data science process...

Read More

Beyond Software: How Scrum Helps Marketers Succeed

Just because a group of software developers popularized Scrum doesn’t mean it’s a technology framework. In fact, their inspiration actually came from a white paper called The New New Product Development Game, which had a lot more to do with business than tech. For the past 20 years, Scrum has...

Read More

Unleash the UI/UX Power in Scrum

There is a wide perception that Design in general is just making things pretty, choosing colors and pictures. However this mostly describes the activities related to UI and does not take into account UX at all. UI/UX are often compared with an iceberg where UI is on the top including...

Read More

Organizational Rhythm

Rhythm...let's define that word really quick before we move on: a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound In music, that rhythm is the foundational cadence that allows multiple musicians to play together and deliver one common, in-tune, and usually beautiful song. If they didn't have that common cadence...

Read More

How Scrum is like American Football

Scrum really is a team sport. We don’t win the game by individual contributions. We win the game by playing well together, much like in American football. In fact, Scrum is so similar in many ways to this sport, so let’s take a closer look. The Huddle is Like the...

Read More

What Does it Mean to Be a Certified ScrumMaster®?

What does it mean to be a Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) and how will it help your career goals? Can you get hired as a Scrum Master without a certification? Let’s explore the pros and cons of certification, what it means for your career and how to obtain your certification if...

Read More

Plan Your Wedding with Scrum

So many people think that Scrum is an IT-thing, but Scrum is such a flexible framework for managing complex products and projects that it can be applied just about anywhere! We’ve seen Scrum used in technology, marketing, finance and human resources, but guess what—it’s not just a framework for business...

Read More

We can't release until the end of the sprint...

As I work with Scrum Team's, I find a common thread in teams that believe our releases are "tied" to the Sprint time-box. This is not the case. Releases are independent of the Sprint time-box. If you have something that meets the team's definition of done, the Product Owner has...

Read More

Requirements in Scrum

Let's be honest. Most teams struggle with how to get requirements into their new "agile" process. Take Scrum for instance. Scrum says you start with what is called a Product Backlog. Let's see what the Scrum Guide says about the Product Backlog: The Product Backlog is an ordered list of...

Read More

Stop Starting and Start Finishing

Ever run in a race or participated in a track meet? No matter how far the distance, when you cross the finish line, you’re done. It’s easy to understand and you don’t have to linger around, waiting for anything else to happen. What happens when you need to get an...

Read More

Are You Ready to Sprint? (Tips for Getting Your First Sprint off to an Amazing Start)

Getting started with Scrum doesn’t need to be a laborious process, but there are a few things you want to settle with your team before you take off sprinting. Teams that are organized around outcomes, have the right people on the team to deliver valuable work, can commit to a...

Read More

The Role of a Project Manager in Scrum

We had a great turnout at DFW Scrum last TUE for "The Role of the Project Manager in Scrum". Many organizations struggle with what to do with the Project Manager when they have a Scrum Team. Chris Eberhardt and myself facilitated this fascinating conversation. The reality is, there is not...

Read More