Deviations from Optimal Planning – No Goal, No Clue

This is the last article in our series focusing on Deviations from Optimal Planning. This time, the topic is No Goal, No Clue.

Setting the Sprint Goal helps you realize a successful Sprint. The Sprint Goal gives a purpose to the Sprint; it defines what we want to achieve. The Sprint is not about delivering the individual pieces/User Stories of the Backlog, but about delivering the goal of the Sprint. You can also say that the Sprint Goal is the result of negotiations between the Product Owner and the Development Team.

To quote 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.”

When we set up a valid Sprint Goal, it helps you from the very start of the Sprint. A shared Sprint Goal supports a focused Planning. It also helps hold a focused Daily Scrum throughout the Sprint because the Developers can use it to inspect their progress. Finally, it guides the Developers towards the final increment at the end of the Sprint and, beyond the borders of the Sprint, it supports the Product Owner in creating the product Roadmap.

If you do not have a Sprint Goal, none of above may happen. The Developers may take Sprint work as more individual pieces and focus too narrowly on their own items. These individual pieces of work may not end up fitting into the bigger picture, resulting in the company spending development time and money without reaping the benefit.

So, how do you avoid this? The Scrum Master has to work closely with the Product Owner to make sure that the Product Owner understands why the Sprint Goal is important and how it relates to the bigger picture of the future development. Only then can the Product Owner decide which steps are important to take and what is the requested increment of the product at the end of each Sprint.

There is only one situation where not having a Sprint Goal does not matter: when your team is in support or maintenance mode. If the team is working reactively, they do not develop anything new; they are just responding to requested changes and bugs to fix. In this scenario, it is not really possible to plan anything, because the team isn’t developing any new functionality. In short, there is no Sprint Goal to achieve.

In every other case, I highly recommend setting a Sprint Goal for all the reasons mentioned above.

Thank you for reading, have courage and be kind.

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