February 26, 2021

3 Do-It-Yourself Workshops To Get Started With Product- And Sprint Goals

It's easy to write about how important it is to have a Sprint Goal and a Product Goal. While nobody disagrees with the value of shared goals, most teams and organizations struggle with them nonetheless. “How can we possibly have one goal for a Sprint when there’s so much different work to do?” or “Our stakeholders want a dozen things at the same time, so a single Product Goal is just not possible” are just some of the reasons.

So rather than writing more blog posts about how important shared goals are, we decided to focus on practical help. While we begin this post by explaining the purpose of shared goals — it is important to understand that well — the meat of this post is where we share three fully-prepared do-it-yourself workshops to identify shared goals with your team (either in-person or virtually). So get started tomorrow!

Why Product- And Sprint Goals Matter

Shared goals are the foundation of the Scrum framework. It is what pulls everything together, and gives meaning and purpose to everything that happens in Scrum. Let's explore this from three perspectives.

Goals help navigate complexity in three complementary ways

The first is that they offer guidance to the Scrum Team when they have to make decisions about what to spend time on. Some work from the Sprint Backlog may be more important to achieving the Sprint Goal than others. The second is that this allows the team to keep their focus on what is important. When the going gets tough, as it often does, the team can decide to let go of certain work and prioritize other work. Or, when time permits, they can add work during the Sprint that they discover is necessary to achieve the goal. And third, Sprint Goals promote collaboration and coherence by giving the Scrum Team a clear and shared purpose to self-manage around instead of working on separate initiatives. Collaboration makes possible the kind of out-of-the-box thinking and team spirit you need when solving complex problems.

Goals Give Purpose To The Scrum Events

The Product and Sprint Goal also give color and purpose to the various Scrum Events, elevating them beyond just being meetings about work. Sprint Planning is about determining the goal for the next Sprint and selecting the work that is needed for that. The Daily Scrum centers around how the Developers will spend the next 24 hours working towards this goal, and which impediments are blocking their ability to do so. The Sprint Review is about verifying the result of the Sprint Goal with stakeholders, how it relates to the Product Goal, and working with them to identify the next goals to focus on. The Sprint Retrospective is about discovering ways to work together more effectively to achieve Sprint Goals.

Goals Give Focus To The Scrum Team

But the Product Goal and Sprint Goal also give focus to the three accountabilities of the Scrum framework. They give the Developers guidance and direction on what to self-manage around. They allow Product Owners to remain focused on their ambitions for the product and how that translates into objectives for the various Sprints, rather than involving themselves with the details of how to implement that. And finally, Scrum Masters can increase the effectiveness of empirical process control by using the Product Goal and Sprint Goal as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. When teams struggle to create goals, that is a good reason for Scrum Masters to put on their Sherlock hats and go explore what is causing this. Teams may be too large or small, they may lack certain skills or people. The Product Owner may not have a mandate or vision. Or refinement is not taking place.

This explanation should make it crystal clear why there should be only one Product Goal per product and one Sprint Goal per Sprint. Multiple goals only confuse the focus, decrease commitment, and limit transparency. Of course, a new goal can be formulated whenever the previous one is achieved or abandoned.

The short story is that in complex work, shared goals like Product Goals and Sprint Goals are the lighthouses that help you reach the harbor through dense fog. Without them, you’re likely to get lost and run ashore.

“Shared goals like Product Goals and Sprint Goals are the lighthouses that help you reach the harbor through dense fog. Without them, you’re likely to get lost and run ashore.”

Three Do-It-Yourself Workshops

Although many Scrum Teams agree that a Product Goal and Sprint Goal are essential, often they struggle to use them effectively. So, we created the following three do-it-yourself workshops to encourage you to move in the right direction:

Note that we ask for a small donation in return for each workshop (5 USD). You can also support us on Patreon to download our digital content for free (note that this benefit starts from the “Contributor”-tier and onward). Give these workshops a try, and let us know how they went. Let’s unleash organizational superpowers, together!

Workshop #1: Help Your Team Get Started With A Product Goal And Sprint Goals

Product development is a complex endeavor. This is something you probably experienced yourself many times. The list of factors you can’t predict is seemingly limitless. What features will our stakeholders value the most? How is the technology we have in mind going to work? What will our competitors do? Do we have all the necessary skills in our team? How much time will it take to finish this functionality? How easy are these bugs to fix?

A Scrum Team can become overwhelmed when they try to figure out an answer to these questions. We designed this do-it-yourself workshop to help your Scrum Team get started with a Product- and Sprint Goal. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new team or have already completed multiple Sprints. It’s never too late to get started with how Scrum is intended. But the importance of a Product- and Sprint Goal is something you probably already experienced yourself…

The string of Liberating Structures contains UX Fishbowl to learn from the stakeholders, Conversation Cafe to share ideas & thoughts about the product, Nine Whys to create the Product Goal, and 25/10 Crowd Sourcing to select the Sprint Goals.

Memory

Use the environment of your Scrum Team as a collective memory. For example, visualize the Product- and Sprint Goals of your team.

Workshop #2: Formulate A Clear Sprint Goal During Sprint Planning

In order to succeed with Scrum, it is important to work with clear goals. Conversely, the best way to end up with Zombie Scrum is to avoid Sprint Goals or to consider them irrelevant or pointless to your situation. If this is happening for you, you’re certainly not alone — many Scrum Teams struggle with Sprint Goals.

Maybe it is hard for your team to identify a goal for the Sprint out of the patchwork of items on their Sprint Backlog. Or perhaps your Product Owner doesn’t know how to balance the requests from many different stakeholders. Whatever the case, many Scrum Teams don’t use Sprint Goals. And that is unfortunate because Sprint Goals are one of the most effective ways to deal with complex work.

We designed this do-it-yourself workshop to help your team define a clear Sprint Goal during Sprint Planning. The string of Liberating Structures contains Celebrity Interview to clarify the Product Goal, 1–2–4-ALL to select a Sprint Goal, Min Specs to create the Sprint Backlog, and What, So What, Now What to define the Sprint plan.

Sprint Planning

Workshop #3: Improve How Your Scrum Team Uses Sprint Goals

Shared goals are very important in Scrum. But although almost everyone agrees with that, few teams actually do it. Why is that?

For Scrum Teams that don’t have a Sprint Goal, each Sprint feels the same: just finish all the items on the Sprint Backlog. They struggle to make decisions about what’s important, and everyone tries to look busy and finish as much work as possible. Scrum events become meaningless, and because there’s no focus on delivering value, the Sprint Review, in particular, becomes obsolete. Why should you invite your stakeholders if you have no idea a Sprint was successful?

A Scrum Team that doesn’t use a Sprint Goal will experience something else as well: they don’t work as a team. It’s only a bunch of individuals sharing the same (virtual) space, but there’s no coherence, no collaboration around a shared purpose, and no sense of direction.

To make the importance of the Sprint Goal clear, it’s easy to dictate the Scrum Guide. The term “goal” is one of the most emphasized concepts. Yet we believe it’s more powerful to let your team discover this by themselves. That’s the intention of this do-it-yourself workshop, which contains the Liberating Structures TRIZ, Discovery & Action Dialogue, and 15% Solutions.

Digging Deep

Dig deep to find solutions for the problems your team has with using Sprint Goals

Closing

For us, the community of Scrum practitioners is our stakeholders. With these 3 do-it-yourself workshops, we hope to deliver value to you. Your feedback is highly appreciated. If you tried the workshops, let us know how it went. Your thoughts, ideas, and experiences are invaluable to us. Only together, we can create even more valuable content, and unleash the superpowers of Scrum Teams, all around the world!