Look up!

Sprint goals provide direction, they provide energy, and they communicate to the outside world. A sprint goal sounds like a simple, straightforward statement that a product owner should be able to craft quickly and then agree upon with a team with relative ease.  Yeah, right. Real-life is often messier. Teams spend hours – literally – to craft eloquent statements that include every business metaphor known to humankind, or just as bad, they throw together a laundry list of stories and call that a goal. Too much or too little, neither extreme is valuable.  A useful minimalist approach to sprint goals will address four major themes. They are:

  1. What the work will deliver, and 
  2. Why the work is valuable to the business. Examples for a team focused on product development might describe a feature or a prototype. Examples for a team focused on enhancements/support might describe a risk reduction or retirement of technical debt. 
  3. How the “why” will be delivered.  This theme should provide the team and stakeholders with an understanding of what will be delivered. Examples can range from a non-functional prototype to a shippable product.  
  4. How the team and stakeholders will know if they have accomplished the goal. Examples are generally context-specific but can include successful acceptance testing or performance improvements.

The goal needs to be written in business language, not technical jargon. Using technical jargon reduces the effectiveness of the goal to communicate intent outside of the development team.  An example of a solid sprint goal that ticks all the boxes for the four themes written by a product owner of an order entry system is: 

Implement both approaches to volume ordering on the classic order entry screen with a toggle to allow marketing to a/b test customer satisfaction and make a decision between the two competing approaches suggested by our user group. 

(Note – this has been paraphrased at the request of the product owner who wrote the original.)

Solid sprint goals require forethought, however using the four themes as a framework helps to create a statement that provides direction for the team, product owner and stakeholders.