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How the Scrum Values help with your Sprint Goal

March 25, 2024

Goals are a powerful tool. They provide purpose, direction and focus, allow for measuring of progress, facilitate prioritization and encourage commitment.

From the Scrum Guide:

The Sprint Goal is the single objective for the Sprint. Although the Sprint Goal is a commitment by the Developers, it provides flexibility in terms of the exact work needed to achieve it. The Sprint Goal also creates coherence and focus, encouraging the Scrum Team to work together rather than on separate initiatives.

In Scrum a commitment is always towards a goal, never towards busy work. A goal describes an outcome and not output. Activities lead to output -- often called inventory. That output, when being released, essentially put into the hands of the user might create outcome. Outcome is solely in the realm of the user to decide. If we have positive outcome, it will create company impact, usually in the form of making money. Customer happiness always comes first, never shareholder value.

In the Sprint Planning the Product Owner and Developers together will craft a Sprint Goal (facilitated by the Scrum Master) which is both valuable and viable. This common agreement leads to commitment. Since the Sprint Goal is fix, it provides focus and flexibility for the Developers in how to achieve it. The Sprint Goal is either achieved or abandoned by cancelling the Sprint, which no surprise, only the Product Owner can decide.

What are the characteristics of a good Sprint Goal?
    - It is short, one sentence seems about right
    - It describes an outcome, often around a verb. 
    - It doesn't contain the word 'and' or 'or'
    - It doesn’t contain bullet points

Sprint Goal examples
    - Automatically invoice customers for last month service 
    - During checkout customer can pay with Paypal
    - Provide basic product configuration wizard
Easy, isn't it? Why do most Scrum Teams struggle with it? Is this a weakness of Scrum? Absolutely not! Remember, Scrum doesn't give you answers, it provides you with transparency. 
If you struggle to do something as intended by Scrum, something else is not right.  This is the transparency Scrum provides you with. Now, it is up to you to identify the underlying cause.

What could be the cause when you struggle to define a outcome based Sprint Goal? Which transparency do we get through the Scrum Values?

    - Your Scrum Team works on several products in parallel and each product gets a slice of the developers availability. --> No Focus
    - The Developers are not fully committed to the Scrum Team. Often only a subset of their availability, based on their expertise. --> No Focus

    - People get often assigned to own a Product Backlog item. (which makes for interesting, rather useless Daily Scrums) --> Focus on their work, not on the team's  Sprint Goal.

As an organization committing to, it is mandatory to commit the Scrum Team to one product for the entire Sprint as a minimum. The longer the team can work together dedicated, the more Openness, Courage and Respect will emerge.

Often, another transparency is that nobody shows up for the Sprint Review. Who wants to see the laundry list of stuff which was done?
Good outcomes on the other hand make people show up. Having and achieving the Sprint Goal is a very good outcome.

Openness, Respect, Courage, Commitment and Focus are the Values on which Scrum is build.

If you are a Scrum Master, I am looking at you. You need to investigate, find the root cause and fix it. Be the agile change agent.

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