What Is a Sprint Goal?

A concise, specific statement to define the value of the sprint
A graphic defining a sprint goal with a portrait of two co-workers high fiving

Reviewed By: Madhur Kathuria

Common benefits of practicing scrum include improved collaboration and communication between team members. When teams collaborate on goals, they can decide if they are both challenging enough and within their capabilities to finish in a given time. 

Setting a goal for the sprint is also the scrum team's way of defining the "why" of their sprint—why what they do in this sprint will get them that much closer to their product goal.

A Sprint Goal Overview: What, Who, and Why

What: A sprint goal is the predetermined objective for the sprint outlined in one to two sentences that give purpose, direction, and focus. Sprint goals should be targeted, quantifiable, realistic, relevant, and time-bound.

Who: The developers and product owner collaborate to develop the sprint goal during sprint planning and clearly describe what the team intends to accomplish.

Why: Sprint goals support and encourage focus. It creates coherence and direction by describing the "why?" of the sprint. And it encourages the team to work together on product backlog items until they have reached a definition of done.

How Do Sprint Goals Work?

The sprint planning meeting is when the scrum master, product owner, and developers meet to determine the "why" of the sprint—this becomes the sprint goal.

Also during sprint planning, the developers determine which product backlog items they will work on to support the sprint goal.

They choose these PBIs based on which ones will contribute to the goal, their capacity for the sprint, and other factors. They often pull in work unrelated to the goal, knowing that the sprint goal is their north star.

The Purpose of a Sprint Goal

Sprint goals outline the objective of the sprint, keep focus, and supply motivation to collaborate and communicate towards a common objective.

A sprint goal promotes cohesion between product roadmaps, backlogs, and the work teams are actually doing. The cohesion between the backlog and sprint goal helps the team prioritize, measure progress, and adapt to changes throughout the sprint.

Who Tracks Progress on the Sprint Goal

During the sprint, the developers discuss and synchronize around progress toward the sprint goal during their daily scrum.

By discussing progress, blockers, and collaboration needs daily, they can monitor and assess progress to completion throughout the sprint—allowing for real-time adaptation if things are off track and need to be adjusted. 

Creating a Sprint Goal

Teams may use many tools to develop sprint goals, but there is a general format to follow.

A practical sprint goal has a purpose, creates value, and specifies an outcome.

  1. Purpose: what you want to achieve during your sprint and why it’s important
  2. Creates value: a specific and meaningful goal that delivers value to customers and stakeholders
  3. Specifies an outcome: by having a measured result, you know whether or not the team has achieved it

In addition, some teams may use the abbreviation "SMART" to write their goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

Sprint Goal Examples

Here is an example of a less-than-ideal sprint goal:

  • Improve customer retention. Finish sprint backlog user stories assigned to the team.

This is a starting point, but it’s not very specific about how the team will do it or what they’re trying to achieve during this sprint.

A better sprint goal answers the questions: why is this sprint worthwhile to the team, company, and customers (whichever may be applicable)? Are we solving a problem or implementing a feature, etc.? How are we measuring progress toward the goal?

Questions that further improve the above sprint goal are:

  • How will we improve customer retention?
  • How will success be measured? Where are we starting vs. where do we want to end up?
  • What steps is the team taking to achieve this?
  • Why are the user stories important to finish for the overall goal?

Here is a better sprint goal:

  • Improve customer retention by 20% by implementing a feedback system that is easy for customers to use.

From there, the team can create or choose from existing product backlog items that support that goal:

  • Analyze customer reviews online to identify key pain points and opportunities.
  • Add a feedback button to all main landing pages.
  • Include a pop-up customer service chat box to request feedback and provide support.
  • Create an automated email asking for feedback after every completed transaction.
  • Set up metrics analysis to measure progress towards improved customer retention and changes in feedback received.

The new sprint goal establishes a clear objective for the sprint. Developing the goal as a team creates shared ownership, understanding, and a commitment to work together toward the common goal.

Why Sprint Goals Are Important

An essential part of the scrum framework is working in sprints. Sprints enable predictability by enabling inspection and adaptation of progress toward the product goal.

When teams work in sprints, they make incremental progress toward a goal every cycle. 

Sprint goals are essential in completing these sprints and doing work that matters. 

Without sprint goals, sprints may get off track, lack ownership from employees, and leave them working on tasks that are unimportant to the overall product or organizational goals.

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