Dear Scrum teams, stop planning Mishmash Sprints

Ever seen a Sprint board that’s a big bucket of completely unrelated tickets? I call them Mishmash Sprints. These teams have skipped over one of my favorite parts of Scrum: the Sprint Goal.

The Scrum Guide defines the Sprint Goal as:

The Sprint Goal is an objective set for the Sprint that can be met through the implementation of Product Backlog. It provides guidance to the Development Team on why it is building the Increment. It is created during the Sprint Planning meeting. The Sprint Goal gives the Development Team some flexibility regarding the functionality implemented within the Sprint. The selected Product Backlog items deliver one coherent function, which can be the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal can be any other coherence that causes the Development Team to work together rather than on separate initiatives.

The Scrum Guide (emphasis mine)

The Sprint Goal is a game changer because it brings:

  • Team cohesiveness. When everyone is working towards the same goal each sprint, there’s not as much siloing. Teams jell faster. Work is more visible. The number of “only Susan knows how to do that” things goes down.
  • Less work in progress. Mishmash Sprints lead to long cycle times for features. When the team works on 10 goals at once, it takes 10 times as long for the team to finish any of them. Remember that WIP is waste and cut it out!
  • An actual valuable iteration. When each Sprint completes a real goal, you’re delivering value with each iteration. Mishmash Sprints often don’t deliver value until it all comes together at the end of the project. That’s not agility.
  • Development Team ownership. With the Sprint Goal as the guiding light, the Development Team (consulting with the Product Owner) can decide how that goal should be achieved. Mishmash Sprints make it too easy for developers to be ticket takers and code monkeys.

If you’re struggling to come up with a Sprint Goal, just ask yourself: if we only had one more sprint to work on this before launching, what would be the most important thing to do? There’s your Sprint Goal.

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