Driving Value With Sprint Goals

Author: Maarten Dalmijn
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9780137381920
Print: 0137381921
Audience: Scrum developers
Rating: 5
Reviewer: Kay Ewbank

Over the years I've read a lot of books about agile development and Scrum, and most concentrate on the methodology rather than what you're trying to achieve. This book is a refreshing change because it concentrates on the end result and how to use Scrum to achieve it.

The very fact that this is different to the majority of books on Scrum says a lot about the sector. Maarten Dalmijn makes a very insightful observation in the introduction where he points out that Scrum doesn't tell you what to do; it helps to show what's going on, and that Scrum isn't about doing better Scrum, it's about improving the ability of Scrum teams to deliver value.


Part one of the book has the title 'why goals matter', and chapter one is all about the unknown. Dalmijn has an extremely readable style and is good at recounting stories to explain the concepts he's wanting to explore. Chapter one's title of 'imperfect plans, flawed execution, and unpredictable results' sets out the premise that building software is an exercise in dealing with uncertainty and complexity.

Chapter two, titled 'more friction, more surprises' introduces the Cynefin framework, and explains how it can be used to establish your working domain and decide on the best strategy. Next comes a chapter on 'countering friction by leading with intent', where Dalmijn again looks at military history to illustrate how to deal with friction and uncertainty.

Part One ends with tales of opposing goals, where Dalmijn looks at what happens when teams do and don't share common goals.


Part Two of the book has the title 'Sprint goals are the beating heart of Scrum', and the first chapter provides an introduction to Scrum. This is followed by an explanation of the fundamental role of Sprint goals in Scrum, and a further chapter exploring what happens when you don't use Sprint goals.

The section closes with a chapter on what happens when there are opposing product and Sprint goals.

By part three, Dalmijn has moved on to the main heart of the book - how to use Sprint goals to drive value. This section starts with a chapter laying out how to create Sprint goals and how to use the Focus mnemonic for Fun, Outcome-oriented, Collaborative, Ultimate and Singular.  This is followed by a chapter on using goals in practice at Scrum events.

An interesting chapter asking the question  'More features, more value?' looks at the tendency to assume (often incorrectly) that adding features is the same as adding value, and looking at how to identify things that are worth adding.

The final part of the book considers how to overcome common obstacles to Sprint goals, starting with a chapter on Scrum anti-patterns such as applying excessive numbers of spikes; having a long product backlog that would last years; endlessly revisiting the same backlog items; and planning every interruption as an item on the backlog.

There's a useful chapter on how to deal with common Sprint goal obstacles, and another useful look at dealing with stakeholders. The book ends with a chapter looking at how to help teams discover better ways of delivering value.

This is a really good book. It's well written, easy to read, and has useful advice drawn from the author's long experience. Thoroughly recommended.

For details of other books on this topic see Reading Your Way To Agile a round up of reviews on our Programmer's Bookshelf.

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 13 February 2024 )