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Julie Springer

Julie Springer

Business Agility Strategist at EmpoweredAgility.com

The Importance of Team Goals and What it Means to Stretch

Over the years of coaching I have observed teams struggling to make good use of goals and objectives.  It is common to see teams failing to either set goals for their iterations, create unclear goals, or fail to discuss the goals with stakeholders and customers.  For Scrum Teams working within the SAFe framework, I have also seen confusion with Stretch Goals and Stretch Objectives.  When teams understand, and make good use of iteration goals and increment objectives and the concepts of stretch, I find there is stronger team commitment, a greater sense of purpose, clearer intent communicated inside and outside the team and improved predictability.

Commitment, Purpose and Intent

Agile Teams are called upon to take accountability for their work and make reasonable commitments to their plans.  Every day, team members make commitments to each other for the work they plan to do that day and update each other on their past commitments.  During planning events, they are asked to commit to the goals or objectives they plan to achieve in the next iteration or increment.

Making clear and achievable goals and objectives is a powerful tool for teams.  The goals and objectives represent the outcomes they are striving to deliver.  They provide purpose and allow the team to align their efforts each day.  Goals and objectives provide clarity and visibility between the team and their stakeholders and customers as to the value of the work they are committing to complete.

In Scrum and SAFe, the use of goals and objectives allows a team to clearly state what they intend to do in the next iteration or increment.  The goals and objectives they commit to are accounted for in their plan.  The team has the capacity and a reasonable level of confidence that they can achieve those goals by the end of the time-box.  When the team presents their goals and objectives, they inform the teams customers and stakeholders what value can be expected and can be planned on being delivered.

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Stretch Goals and Stretch Objectives

In Scrum, Stretch Goals allow an Agile Team to describe an outcome that they would like to achieve during the Sprint.  This goal is not accounted for in their Sprint Plan and is not reflected in the Sprint Backlog.  The Stretch Goal will only be worked on by the team after all other goals are completed and if there is remaining capacity in the Sprint.  The Stretch Goal makes is clear to the team’s customers and stakeholders that the Stretch Goal is not to be expected.  Having the stretch goal defined, provides the team an opportunity to get feedback from their customers and stakeholders on the value of that work.  The Stretch Goals gives the team a goal to strive for and ready work to pull into the sprint if they have additional capacity.

In SAFe, Stretch Objectives allow the team to describe an outcome they intend to achieve that they have low confidence in their ability to complete.  Stretch Objectives are accounted for in their plan and the team has the capacity to complete the work.  The confidence for completing the objective is low due to risks and dependencies to the work that is beyond the team’s control.  By labeling an objective as a Stretch Objective, the team is letting their customers and stakeholders know that they should not plan on that objective being delivered within the Program Increment.  The team’s customers and stakeholders can then develop a contingency plan and help the team address some of the key dependencies.

Predictability

Goals, Objectives, Stretch Goals and Stretch Objectives give Agile Teams a way to bring clarity to their iteration and increment commitments.  Customers, stakeholders and leaders need predictability so they can effectively plan for the delivery of value.  When teams clearly communicate which goals and objectives they plan to complete with a high-level of confidence and which ones are stretch, it builds trust between the team and the people the team is working on behalf of.

Clear Goals and Objectives help the team create effective plans and help guide their day to day work.  When all team members have well defined and communicated goals and objectives, they are able to improve predictability in their delivery. 

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