The elusive Scrum Sprint Goal. One of those practices in Scrum that is often neglected or struggled with. Which is a shame since Scrum Teams can benefit greatly from the much needed Focus it provides, when used properly. Recently an aspiring Scrum Master asked me: “Who makes the sprint goal? In the training we discussed the PO makes it, while the guide states the Scrum Team makes it.” In this blog I’ll try to answer this question. If you’re looking for more insights on the Sprint Goal, try Barry’s excellent article 11 Advantages of using a Sprint Goal.

In any discussion about Scrum, especially in the case of prepping for an exam, I’d like to start by looking at the Scrum guide. So what does it say about this topic? 

Let’s have a look at the Sprint Planning description, where the Sprint Goal is part of ‘Topic One: What can be done this Sprint?’. In Topic One of the planning, the selection of Product Backlog Items to be included this Sprint is determined by the Development team in collaboration with the Product Owner, after which the Sprint Goal is crafted.

The guide states: 

“The Product Owner discusses the objective that the Sprint should achieve and the Product Backlog items that, if completed in the Sprint, would achieve the Sprint Goal.” 

Furthermore, the section closes with:

“After the Development Team forecasts the Product Backlog items it will deliver in the Sprint, the Scrum Team crafts a Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal is an objective that will be met within the Sprint through the implementation of the Product Backlog, and it provides guidance to the Development Team on why it is building the Increment.”

So the Scrum guide is very clear about this. The Scrum Team crafts a Sprint Goal. The wording may be different, but to me that says: the Sprint Goal is a Scrum Team responsibility.

But what is the responsibility of the Product Owner in relation to the Scrum Goal? Yes, he’s part of the Scrum Team, so he is also responsible. But what is his specific contribution? The Product Owner’s main responsibility in Scrum is Value Maximizer. To maximize value, the Product Owner’s responsibility is to have a well-refined Product Backlog, to enable clear communication and deliberation in the Sprint Planning. The Product Owner should have a vision of the goals he/she wants to reach in the coming Sprint. This is reflected in the ordering of the Backlog, but can also be summarized in an initial Sprint Goal, which can be shared with the Development Team upon discussing the top of the Backlog in Topic One of the Sprint Planning. However, the ‘final’ Sprint Goal is clearly a Scrum Team responsibility: after discussing the Backlog Items that can be taken into the Sprint, the initial Goal can or must probably be refined to take into account new insights.

To summarize: As per the Scrum Guide, the responsibility for crafting a Sprint Goal is for the Scrum Team. It is however in large part of interest to the Product Owner to support this process by having clear business goals for the coming Sprint, which can also make ordering the Product Backlog a lot easier by providing Focus.

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