What is a Sprint Goal?
A Specific Goal as Orientation in the Sprint
The Sprint in Scrum is a central element. Within the context of Sprint Planning, the Product Owner and the developers jointly define a Sprint Goal. According to the current Scrum Guide, the Product Owner suggests how the product could increase its value and usefulness in the current Sprint, and the entire Scrum team works out a Sprint Goal based on this. The following points are important:
- The Sprint Goal defines why the Sprint is valuable to stakeholders. A statement “all user stories have to be done” is therefore not sufficient as a phrase.
- It must be defined before the end of the Sprint Planning.
- The commitment of the developers is a prerequisite for the formulation of the goal. Even if they jointly agree to implement backlog items or user stories defined in the context of a sprint, a Sprint Goal is more than “just” the implementation of backlog items or user stories. It describes a common vision of the sprint and defines the purpose of the sprint. Thus, itl answers the question of the sense of the increment to be created and provides the basis for the selection of user stories that contribute to achieving the Sprint Goal.
Advantages of Sprint Goals
A Sprint Goal provides orientation for all participants and thus offers a number of advantages:
- It determines the direction that is taken in a Sprint. The selected backlog items are the way to achieve the Sprint Goal.
- It promotes joint work between the developers, as each developer is committed to achieving the goal in the Sprint. The achievement of the goal becomes the mission of the Scrum Team.
- It is the basis in Daily Scrum, where there are usually three questions to be answered about the completed and upcoming tasks and the work obstacles¹:
What have I done since yesterday to reach the Sprint Goal?
What will I do by tomorrow to achieve the Sprint Goal?
What is hindering me in my work to achieve the Sprint Goal?
- It helps to prioritise the user stories for a Sprint, because most of the time there are stories that are more important than others for reaching the goal.
- They are suitable for communication with stakeholders, who often prefer short statements to numerous details about individual user stories.
The Formulation of Sprint Goals
When formulating a Sprint Goal, the Product Owner should make sure that it is described in a specific, measurable, demanding but achievable way (in other words: SMART). Moreover, it can only have a motivating effect if it is formulated positively.
In addition, it has proven itself in practice to include the Sprint Goal as an element in the Sprint Backlog and visualise it on the taskboard. In principle, it should not be adjusted in the course of a Sprint, but as soon as it becomes apparent that it cannot be achieved or that it is obsolete, it is recommended to cancel the Sprint. The authority to abort lies with the Product Owner. In the course of a retrospective, the team should then reflect on the reasons for failure.
Impulse to discuss:
It can often be observed in organisations that the sprint goal is only formulated visibly for the Scrum team. The following passage can be found in the Scrum Guide: “The evolving process and work must be visible both to those who do the work and to those who receive the work.” People who receive the work are, for example, customers. Why is the sprint goal often not “publicised”?
 The Scrum Guide 2020 does not (no longer) mention the questions that are frequently used in practice. Instead, it says: “The Developers can select whatever structure and techniques they want, as long as their Daily Scrum focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal and produces an actionable plan for the next day of work.This creates focus and improves self-management”.
Sprint Goal is mentioned 20 times as a term in the Scrum Guide. This makes it one of the most important terms in the whole guide.
If you are interested in more explanations, we recommend the free Scrum Whitepaper.
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