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How to Make the Most of Your Sprint Goals

13, Dec 2021
Sean Blake
Written by Sean Blake, Head of Marketing

The sprint goal is a key aspect of any sprint, and it should be front and center throughout your two-week process. The goal ensures the team is aligned on a clear purpose for the sprint, and, if done well, the goal inspires the team to stay on track throughout the entirety of the sprint.

So, what makes a good sprint goal, and how does the sprint goal fit within the framework of a sprint? In this post, we’re going to race (or should we say sprint 😉 ) through a recap of the Scrum process, followed by a list of five critical elements of an effective sprint goal. You’ll learn how to best create, manage, and follow through on your sprint goals for a successful sprint every two weeks.

An overview of the Scrum process

We’re big fans of Scrum! Need a little refresher? Here’s how the Scrum process works and where the sprint goal fits into the whole picture.

Scrum is an agile framework used primarily by software development teams that provides team members with a streamlined workflow to meet stakeholder and customer needs. The Scrum workflow has four meetings (also known as ceremonies), which all have a distinct purpose. This structure means team members can easily support each other by sharing, tracking, and enhancing deliverables.

The Scrum framework divides work into repeating two-week sprints where a set amount of work — the sprint goal — is completed. Each Scrum begins with a sprint planning meeting, and during this time, the product owner defines the sprint goal. They choose which tasks will move from the product backlog to the sprint backlog to be completed over the following two-week sprint.

Product backlog items represent the whole picture of what needs to be accomplished before completing or releasing a product. Sprint backlog items are what the team will (hopefully) accomplish over the course of the sprint.

The Scrum Master acts as a Scrum guide who leads the team through the meetings and steps of the Scrum process. Throughout the sprint, the Scrum team meets for a daily Scrum to check in with one another and report on what work was completed over the previous 24 hours.

At the end of the sprint, a sprint review and sprint retrospective help the team gather feedback from stakeholders and improve upon their processes before the next sprint begins. The entire process repeats again with sprint planning and continues to repeat until the product or project is complete.

Easy Sprint Planning:

Drag items directly from your backlog onto your TeamRhythm User Story Map. Inline edit story summaries and story point estimates. Display your sprint goal on each sprint swimlane.

What makes a good sprint goal?

The sprint goal keeps the team focused and aligned on what everyone is trying to accomplish for each sprint. It’s an extension of the overall product or project goals, but the sprint goal can zero in on key components the team wants to tackle for that specific sprint.

What makes a good sprint goal? Let’s find out.

1. The goal is achievable

The objective of the sprint needs to be achievable within the sprint’s allotted time frame. Generally, in a Scrum framework, the team is time-bound to two weeks.

As new information is gained and other impediments occur, there’s always a chance the sprint goal won’t be met. But that shouldn’t stop you from setting achievable goals. When a team continually fails to meet the goals of the sprint and the project, morale and enthusiasm will decline.

It’s crucial that sprint goals are manageable within the allotted time of the sprint. Sprint goals can become too large when a team tries to accomplish too many different components at once or if too much of the product backlog makes it into the sprint backlog. Rather, take a reasonably achievable workload out of the product backlog to form the sprint backlog. Otherwise, you’ll end up with one daunting overall list and no clear direction for each sprint.

2. The team understands the definition of done

The clearer the sprint goal, the better. You need to clearly define the goals of the sprint and what it means to be done. How will the team know if they achieved the desired outcomes? What does “done” look like? Does everyone agree on this definition for every given task and the overall goals of the sprint?

Your goals need to be measurable to limit ambiguity, subjectivity, or conflicting opinions around the success of the sprint.

When a team is aligned, and everyone understands what needs to be accomplished, decision-making improves, and each aspect of the Scrum team can work harmoniously toward the same aims.

3. The sprint goal is meaningful to the team

Beyond knowing what the team hopes to accomplish over the course of each sprint, the team needs to understand the reasoning behind the sprint goal.

Make sure everyone understands why they are working towards a specific sprint goal. What meaning does the sprint goal have? Ideally, the meaning of the sprint goal will relate back to stakeholder needs, the customer journey, or the user experience of your product.

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4. The sprint goal aligns with the overall product goals

The sprint goal can zero in on a specific aspect of product development, but it should still connect to the overall product goals.

While creating sprint goals, ensure the overarching product vision isn’t lost or ignored. Every sprint, while specific to its own set of goals, should work toward accomplishing your product goals.

5. The sprint goal is visible throughout the sprint

The sprint goal can’t be a “set it and forget it” aspect of your sprint. It should be visible to the team the entire time, and the team needs to continually check in on the goal to ensure they’re on track to achieve it.

The shared goal should be front and center of daily Scrum meetings. If possible, display the sprint goal for everyone to see. As you accomplish backlog items and work through the sprint, continually reference the sprint goal and the progress you are making toward it. How likely are you to achieve the sprint goal considering the time you have remaining in the sprint? What might be standing in the way of achieving this goal?

During the sprint retrospective, you should discuss the success or lack of success the team made on the sprint goal. What went well and contributed to your success? What didn’t go so well that you could change or do differently for the next sprint?

With Easy Agile TeamRhythm, each scrum board in Jira will have an associated User Story Map.

Throughout the sprint, the team can refer to the User Story Map to make sure they’re on schedule, coordinate dependencies, and keep sight of the big picture.

A customer-centric approach

Let’s recap a few of the most important factors to remember when establishing and following through on your sprint goal:

✅ Ensure the goal is achievable.

✅ Ensure the team understands the definition of done.

✅ Ensure the sprint goal is meaningful for the team.

✅ Ensure the sprint goal aligns with the overall product goals.

✅ Ensure the sprint goal is visible throughout the sprint.

Thanks for sticking with us and utilizing the Easy Agile blog. We’re passionate about helping teams work better with agile. We have a suite of Jira apps designed to keep the customer top-of-mind through every step of the development process.

Looking for a tool to streamline your sprint planning sessions? Check out Easy Agile TeamRhythm, which transforms the flat product backlog into a meaningful picture of work.

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