In our work with Scrum teams, we see time and again that the Sprint Goal is often neglected. Many teams don’t even realize the importance of the Sprint Goal, which can lead to more problems than you might think at first. That’s why we want to show you in this post why the Sprint Goal is so important and how you can set a good Sprint Goal.
What is a Sprint Goal?
According to the Scrum Guide, the Sprint Goal defines the focus of the Sprint and serves as a commitment to stakeholders (e.g., customers or other departments within the company) as to what value will be created in the Sprint. Usually, the Sprint Goal consists of a sentence or a short description.
It is important to note that reaching the Sprint Goal is an absolute must. All activities in the Sprint are focused on achieving the Sprint Goal.
Setting a clear and binding goal has several advantages for everyone involved. It increases motivation in the team because everyone gets the feeling that they are working together towards something instead of just completing their own tasks.
Also, a good Sprint Goal helps the team to prioritize the work. Since it is a kind of “minimum goal”, it allows the team some flexibility in implementing the stories in the Sprint backlog. Therefore, it is important to understand that achieving the Sprint Goal does not mean that all stories need to be implemented. If the Sprint Goal is in jeopardy—for example, due to unexpected technical difficulties—work on less important stories can be paused and the Sprint backlog renegotiated with the Product Owner. The only important thing is that the Sprint Goal is achieved.
The Sprint Goal also serves an important purpose in collaboration with stakeholder because it communicates what stakeholders can expect from a Sprint without having to know the details of individual stories. This makes it clear in advance who should be invited to the Sprint Review and what will be presented there by the team.
How do you set a good Sprint Goal?
The Sprint Goal is defined together by the Product Owner and the Developers during Sprint Planning. The Product Owner can also propose a goal to the Developers. When formulating the goal, the team must ensure that it is specific and measurable. Only then is it possible to align the activities in the Sprint precisely with the goal and to check at the end of the Sprint whether it has really been achieved.
The exact content of the Sprint Goal is entirely up to the team, as the Sprint focus can differ depending on the phase of product development. At the beginning of a product development, exploratory Sprints can create the most value by gathering a lot of feedback from potential users or evaluating different software architectures. As time goes on, the focus then usually changes towards feature development or performance improvements.
Here are some examples of what a Sprint Goal shouldn’t look like:
“All stories are done.”
Although this goal is measurable (it is easy to see if all stories are done or not), it is not specific and does not include any value to be created in the Sprint. Therefore, it does not help the team to focus the activities in the Sprint on a common goal, nor does it help the stakeholders to set an expectation for the Sprint.
“Prototype is developed.”
The problem here is that the goal is not measurable. What must the prototype contain for it to be considered “ready?”
Better Sprint Goals that are specific and measurable might look like this:
“The prototype is ready for the first user test with two customers.”
This Sprint Goal contains concrete requirements. However, it is not too specific and leaves open which concrete features need to be developed. If the Sprint Goal is in jeopardy, the team can renegotiate the feature scope of the prototype with the Product Owner if necessary, as long as the result is ready for a user test with two customers at the end of the Sprint.
“Reduce application loading time by 20%.”
This Sprint Goal is also concrete and measurable without giving too many details. How exactly the 20% improvement will be achieved is left up to the Developers. During Sprint Planning they have estimated toghether with the Product Owner that a 20% improvement is a realistic goal.
How is the Sprint Goal used?
In order for the Sprint Goal to fulfill its purpose, i.e., to motivate the team and promote a common direction for all activities in the Sprint, it must be clearly visible to all team members at all times. The Scrum board, on which the goal should be written down in large letters, is particularly suitable for that. As soon as the Sprint Goal is defined, it should also be communicated to all interested stakeholders.
The Daily Scrum plays an important role in the continuous review of the Sprint Goal. If the Sprint Goal is in danger due to unforeseen problems, e.g., technical difficulties or the absence of team members, this can be addressed in the Daily Scrum. The team can then take action to resolve these issues and ensure that the Sprint Goal is achieved.
By the way, there is one case in which even a cancellation of a Sprint is justified, namely if it turns out that the Sprint Goal no longer needs to be achieved. This can happen if the customer’s requirements change in such a way that the Sprint no longer creates any new value, e.g., because a certain feature is no longer needed.
How edelsprint helps you with the Sprint Goal
If your team uses edelsprint, you will always have the Sprint Goal in sight, as it will be clearly displayed on the board and in all meetings, creating an awareness of what you want to achieve in the Sprint. Additionally, the integrated Scrum coach analyzes your Sprint Goal after each Sprint and gives you tips on how to improve it further.
We hope this post helps you and your team to set good Sprint Goals. If you enjoyed the post and would like to learn more about different Scrum topics, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter.