What is a Sprint Goal?
The Sprint Goal Commitment
In the Scrum Guide, each Scrum artifact (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Increment) has an associated commitment which provides information to enhance transparency and focus against which progress can be measured. The commitments solidify the accountabilities of the Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developers. The commitment of the Sprint Backlog is the Sprint Goal.
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 cohesiveness and focus, encouraging the Scrum Team to work together rather than on separate initiatives.
The Sprint Goal is created during Sprint Planning by the Scrum Team and then added to the Sprint Backlog. As the Developers work during the Sprint, they keep the Sprint Goal in mind. If the work evolves and is not what they expected (it is more or less complex than they thought, for example), they collaborate with the Product Owner to negotiate the scope of the Sprint Backlog within the Sprint without affecting the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal does not change during a Sprint. However, there are sometimes cases where the Scrum Team discovers something that invalidates the Sprint Goal. When that happens the context of the situation or the environment the team is working in will influence what happens next, including possibly canceling the Sprint.
Sprint Goal Characteristics
When creating a Sprint Goal, it is important to keep in mind that it should be clear as to what the Scrum Team is aiming to achieve during the Sprint. It is also important that the goal is attainable. As the Sprint Goal is in place to help create focus for the Scrum Team, the goal must be attainable and not too large or it will have the opposite impact.
Remember, Scrum is about delivering value incrementally, so your Sprint Goal should be created with that in mind in order to maintain focus. It is also important for the Sprint Goal to be visible so that the Scrum Team does not lose sight of it. The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect the progress toward the Sprint Goal, so it is important for Scrum Teams to maintain that practice.