Getting Things Done,  Scrum


People with goals always outperform people without them. I think that this is the main reason to begin setting goals. We all work better if we have a goal. That is, goals that we commit to, make a promise to ourselves that we will finish. A goal without this is not a goal, it is just a waste of time. What’s the point if I set a goal for myself and then just ignore it? We have to hold ourselves accountable.

Now, the goals has to be reasonable, you have to be able to finish them, or they are just as useless as not having any. Setting a goal to swim across the Atlantic Ocean in 24 hours is not a goal. It’s delusional. So, a goal has to be reachable. But does it have to be a stretch goal? Absolutely not.

Actually, just having a goal, even if it is tiny, can get the ball rolling and then the rest will follow. It is a creativity starter. And also, by setting it that low, you remove the mental barrier to start.

But a good goal doesn’t have to be tiny either. It can be as big that it fills your time, as long as you can reach it within that time. And of course, a list of many goals is to prefer, so you get the pleasure of marking them as done. It actually gives you a kick every time you do that. And that keeps the motivation going.

Putting things on a list and making sure that you finish them is a great way of getting all those things that you postpone done too. “I’ll do it tomorrow,” is all of a sudden out of the picture when it is on the list, and the list has to be completed.

It depends a bit on what you want to get out of it. A creativity starter? Or getting things done? It’s up to you to mix and blend as it fits you.

Goals are a tool to increase performance.

Now, goal-setting works for teams too. And this is the segues I was looking for to get into scrum.

Did you know that scrum has goals built into the process? It sure has, and it’s called “The Sprint”.

Think of it, you sit down and plan the sprint ahead. You also set a date when you will have finished them. A deadline. And during every stand-up, you check the progress. And when you are finished with a task/ story, you move it to ‘done’, i.e., check it off the list.

If that is not setting goals, I don’t know what is.

But did you notice that something was missing from that list? Yes, accountability! I didn’t say anything about that. And this is actually where so many scrum teams fail. There is no accountability in their processes. Which means that they don’t get the benefits of goal setting.

So many scrum teams do not treat the sprint backlog as goals. They only think of them as a list of things to work on. More like suggestions.

This means that you, as a person or as a team, loose the feeling of urgency, the very thing in the goal that pushes you. You relax. The speed goes down. And at the end of the sprint, who cares, we just move it to the next sprint, and all’s good. Because it’s good to let the schedule start slipping. Because there is no cost to the company when you drag out on development time.

Sure, it is convenient to not have any pressure, to just develop at your will. But it is a choice you have to make. You have to ask yourself the following.

Are you just another one in the crowd? A mediocre, beige person?

Or do you want to be a high performer? The one that people can rely on to get things done?

A goal is a tool that can help you become a high performer. It is up to you if you want the benefits of it or not. But I can tell you one thing, it works.

Let’s get practical

Now, how does this translate into practical Scrum? You have to do a seemingly simple change in how you see the sprint, however it is actually quite a big mental shift.

You have to stop thinking of it as a to-do list and start seeing it as a commitment to the client, as well as yourself. You and the rest of the team will make a promise to deliver. You will not pull things over to the next sprint. You will hold yourself accountable for the result. Failure is not an option, in this case.

You will only add stories to the sprint that you more or less know that you can finish. And not one single story more than that. So, make sure they are small enough.

You will make an effort to finish everything in the sprint. If that means that you have to work a few hours extra sometimes, well, so be it. I mean, if you do that often enough, it is a signal that you keep putting too much into the sprint, the stories simply are too big, or you haven’t done refinement well enough to uncover all the dirty little secrets that hides in them. And also, it goes both ways, the next time, you can quit early.

There is of course the situations when unexpected things happen, or you are depending on someone else to deliver to you. On those rare occasions, you will have to talk to the stakeholders and negotiate that you will pull something out from the sprint. I say negotiate, even if the stakeholders don’t care, because that is a part of being held accountable. You did commit to deliver; you just can’t pull things out at a whim. You have to own the problem.

Good luck! And…

— Cheers!

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