Agile – Sprint Goal Ownership

Retrospectives improve process

Far too often retrospectives become a chore that agile teams feel obliged to do and forget their core objective of being an open forum for the team discuss both triumphs and failures in order to improve processes and efficiency. Happily the team I work with use our retrospectives for their intended purpose and there have been some significant changes in the way we do things that have made the whole team work more efficiently and produce better outcomes.

The poor PM

Before the change in process, the team were setting goals every sprint. The problem came at the sprint planning sessions where we reviewed the previous sprint and saw that we weren’t achieving all our goals. In some sprints we were only achieving 1/3 of our goals.

The obvious conclusion to draw from these failures is that we were setting too many goals. Upon inspection of our sprint velocity compared with the amount of development time in the sprint, the amount of goals looked to be accurate. The conclusion we drew therefore was that there was a lack of focus in our team when it came to completing goals.

One of the main issues we face in our team is that there aren’t separate roles for scrum master and product owner. These roles end up being performed by a single person, the project manager (PM). When these roles are combined, the PM’s focus is split between tracking the current sprint, grooming future sprints and scoping out future features.

Goal owners

Our retrospective had the following outcome. Where previously we had multiple goals and a single role (PM) assigned to completing the goals, we now have multiple goal owners.

We found the benefits of this change in approach were threefold:

  • responsibility for completing goals now rests with multiple owners instead of one
  • there is a greater sense of the team working together to complete goals rather than relying on one individual to drive all goals toward their completion
  • the PM has more time to focus on grooming future sprints and scoping out features in more detail

The result

The introduction of this change in process saw an immediate impact on sprint goal completion and team efficiency and is now a core part of our planning and execution.

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