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How to write a good Sprint Goal?

One of the challenges for Product Owners is to write down a good Sprint Goal. The team often focuses on the Sprint Backlog, completely ignoring the Sprint Goal.

So what is Sprint Goal, and why is it important?

Sprint Goal is a critical component for planning because it is an instrument for the team and stakeholders to get a shared understanding of the priorities and clarify the focus of the work.

In addition, Sprint Goal defines what the team intends to achieve in the next Sprint. Think about it, engineers have many tasks on the board that they work on for 2 or 3 weeks (that's how long Sprints usually last). With many tasks moving around, it's easy to lose the bigger picture idea.

On one of my bigger projects, the team had 90 -120 tasks each 2-week Sprint, in this case, defining a good Sprint Goal helped everyone not to get lost in a large number of tasks.

How to write a good Sprint Goal?

When you write a Sprint Goal, it is best to use the SMART concept of goal formulation. This is a set of five expectations about a properly formulated goal's characteristics - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Let's review key components to pay attention to when writing a Sprint Goal:

1. Make it specific

Be specific in defining what you want to achieve at the end of the Sprint, do not leave room for interpretation - Sprint Goal must be clear to the whole team and stakeholders. Don't say ''make progress in building data pipeline'', say ''add X data points to the pipeline''.

2. Achievable within a Sprint

Sprint Goal must be achievable within one Sprint and must be defined as a completed event ''users can generate reports based on available data''.

Remember that it is the Product Owner who gives the direction of the Sprint Goal, but the development team can and must verify if they can deliver it, if there are any challenges on the way to deliver it, or if perhaps a change in the Sprint Goal would be able to provide more value.

During Sprint Planning, the key is to have a decent discussion about why we are working on a particular goal and what we want to accomplish by achieving it.

3. Reflect measurable value

Once it is clear that the Sprint Goal will bring incremental value to our product and the development team will be able to deliver it, the next step is to determine how we will measure that we have achieved what we want (since our feelings are not enough).

Let's take an example of the following goal:

Increase the number of users reading a newsletter by implementing a subscription model.

As a way of measuring that we managed to achieve what we planned, we can say that:

Subscription model success, measured by the number of users that signed up for a subscription in the first 2 weeks (target min 1000 users).

Final note

Sprint Goal's purpose is to focus on what we want to achieve. Remember that we cannot plan for the unknown and expect it to suit us 100%. This is why during the Sprint, the Scrum team needs to review the Sprint Goal and verify if Sprint Backlog is still on track to meet the Sprint objective.

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