This is story about two Scrum teams that need to go from New York to San Francisco in ten business days. Because they have ten business days to get there, both teams decide to drive a car. The car they are driving can only be driven eight hours a day, Monday through Friday.
The Sprint Goal for both teams is “by the end of the Sprint, arrive at our offices in San Francisco.” Both teams are running a two week Sprint.
One team is output focused.
The other team is outcomes focused.
The Output Focused Team
- Plans their entire route, stops, hotels, gas purchases, costs, etc.
- Three days into the journey, they run into a major traffic jam. They stay on their planned route. It takes eight hours to clear. The team has to drive longer hours to get to their hotel. They wake up exhausted the next morning.
- The next day, because they are so tired, they have an accident. This takes two days to repair the car sufficiently to make it drivable again and now the team also has to deal with the insurance hassles as they drive.
- Eight days into the journey, they hit an unexpected detour (not on the map, they didn’t know about it), which takes them six hours out of their way.
- Almost four days behind in their journey, the team calls their contact in San Francisco and reports that they will probably only get as far as Nebraska by the end of the 14 days.
The Outcomes Focused Team
- Plans on taking I-80 from the George Washington Bridge to the Oakland Bay Bridge, but expects to “play it by ear” should an alternate route become obvious. They have a rough idea where they will stop each night, but plan to make hotel reservations along the way.
- Three days into the journey, they run into a major traffic jam. They find the first exit they can take and detour around the jam. They lost a couple hours and decide to stop at a different hotel.
- Eight days into the journey, they hit an unexpected detour (not on the map, they didn’t know about it), which takes them six hours out of their way. The realize that they’ve lost about a day’s worth of driving and start considering other alternatives for getting to San Francisco, including driving nine or ten hours a day.
- Ten days into the journey, one of the team members becomes sick which causes the entire team to drive, not nine hours a day, but only four. The team loses more time.
- Twelve days into the journey, the team decides they will not make it to San Francisco on time. With the sick team member mostly recuperated, the team finds the closest airport, purchases tickets to San Francisco, and arranges for the car to be moved to San Francisco by a carrier.
- The team arrives in San Francisco on time.
The output focused team can only focus on the plan they created at planning. Once they realize they can’t reach finish their plan on time, they escalate.
The outcomes focused team focused on the goal: San Francisco. They start with the original plan of driving, but eventually have to shift to an alternate approach.
The output focused team fails.
The outcomes focused team succeeds.
The Moral of the Story
Sprint Goals are critical to the success of the Scrum team. The proper creation of a Sprint Goal will help your Scrum team realize that:
- It’s the goal that’s important, not the backlog items or the tasks.
- Achieving the goal creates value; getting tasks done doesn’t provide anything for anyone.
- Teams should always be looking for better ways to get where they need to go. Forget the backlog items, forget the tasks.
- When life throws a lemon at your team, you’d better hope they know how to make lemonade. Otherwise, they’re going to stop their car in Lincoln, Nebraska and escalate their problem to someone else to solve.
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