Struggling with Product Goals? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

 


With the release of the 2020 Scrum Guide, Scrum practitioners all over the world are suddenly confronted by three novel commitments:

  1. Sprint Goal
  2. Definition of Done
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Photo by Tatiana Syrikova
  • How far ahead in time should you create Product Goals?
  • How should you formulate a Product Goal?
  • How do you split up a Product Goal into Sprint Goals or Product Backlog Items?
  • Can Product Goals be equal to Sprint Goals?

What is a Product Goal?

Here’s how the Scrum Guide defines a Product Goal:

  1. Why it matters — “Allow the ground invasion forces to advance inland.”

The Product Goal is an Epic

I would argue nearly everybody who uses Scrum is familiar with Epics. Epics are large chunks of functionality that are too big to work on directly. You first need to break Epics down into smaller pieces first that fit in a Sprint. Then you plan and work on those smaller slices.

  • Why this outcome matters to our users and our business.

What is the optimal time horizon for a Product Goal?

You can have big Product Goals, which I call super-Epics, that need to be further broken down into smaller Epics, sometimes across multiple teams. Unless you are 100% sure the big Product Goal is valuable, it makes no sense to break it down completely and plan it ahead of time. You first need to gain confidence that it is valuable by building something small and getting feedback.

How far ahead in time should you create Product Goals?

When Product Goals are created, they are shaped based on your current understanding. When doing complex work, more is unknown than known. As a result, creating Product Goals too far ahead of time will lead to unnecessary waste.

How should you formulate a Product Goal?

I came up with the handy FOCUS acronym for formulating Sprint Goals. You can use the same acronym to check whether your Product Goals are formulated in the best way:

  • Outcome-oriented
  • Collaborative
  • Ultimate
  • Singular

How do you split up a Product Goal into Sprint Goals or Product Backlog Items?

If you know how to express Product Goals and break down Epics into smaller chunks, then the only hurdle you still need to take is to formulate a Sprint Goal. This was something you also had to do in the previous version of the Scrum Guide, so I won’t cover more ground on this topic in this article. I’ve written many articles on Sprint Goals, which will help to craft them the right way.

  1. 6 common mistakes when planning a Sprint
  2. How to do effective Sprint Planning as a Product Owner?

Can Product Goals be equal to Sprint Goals?

The answer is a resounding, yes! You may be able to complete an Epic in a single Sprint after splitting it up. Therefore it is also possible that the Sprint Goal is equal to the Product Goal.

Reframing Product Goals as Epics allows Scrum Teams to tap into their existing body of knowledge

Before Product Goals were introduced, I always framed Epics as an outcome together with a why. We would then break down the Epic into smaller pieces by collaborating and discussing it with the Scrum Team. The only difference is that instead of an Epic, we now call it a Product Goal.

  1. Why does this outcome matter?

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