Intro to Scrum (15 of 16): What is the Sprint Backlog and Sprint Goal?

What is the Sprint Backlog and Sprint Goal?

Who is responsible for making and maintaining the Sprint Backlog? Who creates the Sprint Goal? Is it necessary to have a Sprint Goal in every Sprint, and is it possible to have multiple Sprint Goals? I will explain, following the Scrum Guide definition, the concept of Sprint Backlog and Sprint Goal and their significance for a Scrum Team.

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The Sprint Backlog is composed of the “why”: the Sprint Goal, the “what” – the forecasted work that we’re going to take on for this Sprint, and the “how” – the actionable plan to create an Increment by the end of a Sprint.

The Sprint Backlog is a plan by and for the Developers of the Scrum Team. It’s a highly visible, real-time picture of the work that the Developers of the Scrum Team plan to accomplish by the end of the Sprint in order to achieve their Sprint Goal. Consequently, the Sprint Backlog is updated frequently throughout the Sprint as more has learned. It should have enough details so that the Developers of the Scrum Team can inspect progress towards a Sprint Goal during their Daily Scrums.

The Sprint Backlog’s commitment is the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal is the single objective for the Sprint. Although the Sprint Goal is a commitment by the Developers, it allows some flexibility in the work that is done in order to achieve it. The Sprint Goal also creates coherence and focus, encouraging the Developers to work together rather than on separate initiatives.

Let me pick on that one – if you’ve got a team that’s breaking down the work in Sprint Planning, and everyone’s taking their own pieces if they own it individually, you probably don’t have a very good Sprint Goal. Just a tip.

The Sprint Goal is created during Sprint Planning, and then is added to the Sprint Backlog. As the Developers work throughout the Sprint, they keep that Sprint Goal in mind. If it turns out the work is different than the Developers expected, they work with the Product Owner to collaborate and perhaps negotiate the scope of the Sprint Backlog so that they don’t compromise the Sprint Goal.

That concludes the explanation of the Sprint backlog and its associated commitment to the Sprint Goal. Some things to point out here: without a goal, the team tends to divide and conquer. They tend to all do their own thing. So, you really do need to make sure that you have a Sprint Goal. That’s the thing that you achieve throughout the Sprint, and really the work is just a means of getting there. So, think about it as the goal is the strategy, and the work is the tactics. So, we want to accomplish those goals. Also, a great thing to review in your Sprint Reviews – make sure that your stakeholders understand what the Sprint Goal was.

If all of this information about Scrum is interesting to you and wish to expand your knowledge, we suggest you consider enrolling in one of our courses like the Applying Professional Scrum, Professional Scrum Master, or Professional Product Owner. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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