Definition: What is a Sprint Goal?
The Sprint Goal describes an outcome towards which a Development Team works within a Sprint. An outcome is a result or a benefit from the customer perspective e.g. being able to pay online instead of having to wait at home to pay the delivery service in cash.
A team might be able to achieve a Sprint Goal with the delivery of one product backlog item e.g. implementing PayPal as a payment option for the example above. But a team might also need multiple items (features) to achieve a certain Sprint Goal.
Depending on a team’s sprint length, the work on a Sprint Goal can take one or multiple sprints. Equally, a team could work on multiple smaller Sprint Goals in the same sprint.
Any Sprint Goal should be connected to the Product Vision. If a team cannot do that, they should question whether it makes sense to work on that Sprint Goal at all.
Synonyms: What terms are used instead of Sprint Goal?
Some teams use different terms e.g. Sprint Objective, Goal, or just Outcome.
Objective: Why should you use a Sprint Goal?
Sprint Goals used correctly, help a team to constantly take the customer perspective and evaluate what kind of value they want to deliver for customers compared to thinking in features i.e. outcomes vs. outputs. In many cases, this also results in much higher intrinsic motivation of the team as they know why they do the work.
Further, Sprint Goals help a Product Owner to prioritize. Thinking about the objectives certain customers have and putting them into a logical sequence is the backbone of great prioritization techniques such as User Story Mapping.
Last but not least, Sprint Goals are the best thing to demonstrate to stakeholders in a Sprint Review. Too often do we see Sprint Reviews being a reporting from Development Team to Stakeholders about everything (!!!) they have done in the release. This is not the intention of a Sprint Review! If we want to learn whether our work delivers value for customers we should be spending our time on demonstrating the Sprint Goal and listening to customer feedback.
Responsibility: Who is responsible for the Sprint Goal?
As with the Product Vision, having Sprint Goals is a Product Owner responsibility. Does that mean that a Product Owner creates Sprint Goals in their ivory tower? Of course not! Great Product Owners manage to co-create Sprint Goals with the Development Team and key stakeholders.