Is the sprint goal mandatory?
I have been scrum master for a team for about half a year. Up until the last month, we never really took the sprint goal seriously, but after reading a little more we are starting to (with pretty good effects).
When studying up on this, I found conflicting views on whether a sprint goal is mandatory or not. Primarily this article which is posted on scrum.inc: https://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/why-sprint-goal-not-essential-mandatory-artifact
The scrum guide doesn't seem to explicitly state that it is mandatory, at the same time, there are quite a few people calling bull$*** on the article and saying that the sprint goal is mandatory.
Is there any kind of final verdict on this one? I like to know my facts through and through when coaching my crew.
My advice is to consider the Sprint Goal as one of the rules of Scrum, and that it ought to be coached as being immutable. I'd avoid the use of the word "mandatory", as the framework does not force people to do anything. However, the result of eliding the Sprint Goal would result in something that was not Scrum.
"Scrum’s roles, events, artifacts, and rules are immutable and although implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum".
I have nothing in the Scrum Guide that is listed as mandatory. In my opinion, if there were requirements it wouldn't be a framework. But...
In my experience, trying to do Scrum without a Sprint Goal is usually ineffective. Without the Sprint Goal, the teams does really understand what they are trying to accomplish and the Sprint Backlog becomes a list of unrelated items making the delivery of a potentially releasable increment that has any value less likely.
I like @Ian's response and will admit that I am going to steal it when I get into a face-to-face discussions with people with which I work.
I consider the sprint goal as the "gold nugget" of a sprint. In reality the overall sprint content cannot be always allocated to any business value, sometimes features are "just" milestones. But together with the PO´s we try to understand which set of features within a sprint delivers highest value to our stakeholders and create the sprint goal out of this.
The advantage to this approach is, that even if the sprint commitment is not accomplished, the team can still deliver the "gold nugget" to our stakeholders. Its just a "parachute" we use and it works out nice. Still we consider the overall sprint commitment and planning as very important.
How does the team plan for the sprint accordingly without the Sprint Goal? The Goal gives the context of what we are working on and tells the team what items to put into the sprint. Sure there are times when you need to pick up items that don't pertain to the Sprint Goal but that should not be the majority of the items in the sprint. Scrum is about developing an increment of working software with each sprint, the Sprint Goal determines what the increment is. If you don't have an increment, you're basically just doing Rapids (short phases of Waterfall) instead of Scrum.