Sprint One – Defining Mission, Role, and Goals 2017-04-23T23:02:12-07:00

Lesson 3, Sprint 1: Defining Mission, Role, and Goals

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This sprint will help you learn to clarify the targets for the development team.

As an Agile leader, you won’t be micro-managing everything they do each day, so you need to make sure the development team has enough guidance to self-direct in the right direction.

Estimated Time
75 minutes

Materials Needed:
Whiteboard, markers, management team and devs


For this workshop you can use either a real life goal that you and your team need to meet, or a fantasy mission of your choosing.  Examples:

  1. We need some kind of website for something
  2. We need to improve customer service
  3. We need to protect the castle from the barbarians
  4. We need to  overthrow the leader of the Illuminati

Once you select the mission, you will work with the group to devise a one sentence statement that is simple and clear, allowing everyone on the team to understand the project. Explain to everyone that during the hour-long workshop the team will:

  • Devise a single sentence that describes the project or mission perfectly
  • Establish 3-5 measurable, observable goals that must be met to complete the project
  • List the types of general resources required to do the job
    • Could be a job title : “Lead Dev”
    • Could be task related: “Someone to make reports”

It is super important that you set out the goal for the workshop clearly and speak with confidence.  Allow a few minutes for folks to shuffle in disbelief, but then crack on.

Defining the Mission

If the mission you are using is a real mission, simply explain the outcome you are seeking.  If you are using a fantasy mission, tell a little tale to set it up.  For example:

“Once there was a lovely kingdom near a wood, with fertile fields and sparkling streams.  Sadly, this lovely place has lately had its economy damaged by barbarians.  Our goal is to keep the barbarians from continuing to harm our lovely hamlet . . . “

Present it to the group and ask, “Can anyone here put this in a single sentence right now?” Someone will try.  If not, then you try.  The sentence has a noun, “ We” or “The Department”,  so all that’s left is the verb and the object.  Do not allow the group to put reasons or justification language in the sentence:

“ Because we are plagued by barbarians and our citizens are sad . . .”  

“The system we have now is terrible and will die anytime, so we need . . .”

This kind of extra information is not necessary and just makes it hard to restrict your description to a single sentence. It may take as long as 25 minutes to finally arrive at a sentence that the team can agree on.   Examples of good goal sentences:

  1. We will rewrite all the copy on our website
  2. We will make a new IVR call tree
  3. We will build a moat
  4. We will hack the central computer of a suspected Illuminati leader

Note the lack of detail — these sentences are not long or full of disclaimers and positioning words.  Nor do they say anything about the attributes of the goal we are seeking.  We capture the attributes in the next section of this sprint.  

Goals and Criteria

In this section of the workshop sprint, we define the criteria that must be met in order to claim the mission is a success.  These are the terms of victory.  Together with the one sentence mission statement, this becomes your team’s high-level “definition of done”.

This can take as long as 25 minutes to complete because you must ensure that each goal is something that can be observed or measured.   You must also take care that these are not vague or incredibly obvious.  Goals like “it must work well” or “it must be user friendly” are both obvious and unmeasurable, and therefore would not pass muster.   You are aiming to create nice, meaty goals that give clear conditions that must be met. For example:

  • Click-through traffic on website increases by X
  • Customer services ending up with live operator are reduced
  • Barbarian  incursions completely end
  • We are able to destroy Illuminati robotic soldiers without detection

To expand on the barbarian invasion example, some other goals might be:

  • Must not block egress to courtyard
  • Must not involve magic (remember last time?!?)
  • Must be made of locally sourced fibers or materials

When you have 3-5 conditions you are getting close to done.  You know you are done when the group begins to struggle to come up with new ones or when some suggestions can be grouped together because they are re-statements or sub-goals.

Defining Roles

In order to accomplish any of the goals, it is important for Executives to understand how to recruit the best type of talent to join the team.  Hopefully, the skills needed are already represented by the group, but it is possible that a goal on the list may require extra resources.

If we have used a fantasy mission, you may not have the exact resources required (i.e. medieval engineers) at the meeting,  but you can still assign resources at a high level.  We will work on refining this in the third sprint of the workshop.

The group will now focus on each goal and suggest the type of resources that may be needed.  For example, in the barbarian protection scenario, a goal might be that the solution needs to pass the hamlet’s building committee ordinance.  The team could then identify that we need a legal resource to handle the permitting. Other examples from above:

  • Click-through traffic on website increases by X
    • We need an Search Engine Optimization resource
    • We need a UX designer
    • We need a copywriter
  • Customer services ending up with live operator are reduced
    • We need an Interactive Voice Response programmer
    • We need a customer service expert
  • Barbarian  incursions completely end
    • We need a medieval siege consultant
    • We need serfs to help build walls
  • Able to destroy Illuminati robotic soldiers without detection
    • We need a mole in the organization
    • We need a robotics whiz
    • We need an AI bio-machine hacker

Once this is done, the Executive and the team have a list of all the ingredients needed to accomplish the goals. We will use this work in the next sprint.

You’re ready to move on to the next sprint!

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