Kanban Boards and Scrum Boards – Top 5 Myths And Facts About Setting Up The Right Goals
1. Sprint Goals And Tasks On A Scrum Board Strive Toward The Product Goal
Each task on a Scrum board should be indeed a small step towards the Sprint goal, which is a step towards the Product goal, introduced in the 2020 version of the Scrum guide. There is no doubt about it. If you want to create impact, this is what you should be doing. And if you are not doing this, rethink your process.
You should always have the Product goal somewhere in front of you so it’s clear what you want to achieve. It should be not only communicated but overcommunicated and everyone should know it by heart. Each Sprint goal and each task on the Scrum board should be double-checked if they will bring you closer to the Product goal or not.
If you get the whole team to participate in this, this is one of the most powerful techniques that you can use to succeed. And don’t rely only on the Product Owner, Management, or Leadership to communicate this. Make sure that you know it and that it’s always somewhere close, reminding you of the main goal.
The real myth here comes from reality. What I mean is that, in reality, I found that less than 9 out of 10 teams have a Product goal. And if they have it, it’s rarely known to them, at all. Even if someone knows the Product goal, it’s very uncommon that they are trying to bring this to a Scrum board or that they are communicating it regularly.
An even greater myth is that this will be solved by a Scrum board. The problem can be even deepened by a Scrum board. How? Most of the Scrum boards focus only on the operational level and make people think only about what needs to be delivered, but rarely about if the tasks make sense and if they will help achieve the Product goal.
This way of working only promotes focusing on the delivery and not thinking about results and impact. With that being said, think about how a Scrum board can enable you to make great results, but also keep in mind that it can just be a myth if you don’t invest time and effort in using it properly.
Also, it’s a great myth that Kanban boards don’t use something like a Product goal on Scrum boards, but we’ll get to that a bit later. Let’s see what we can do about the main topic.
While this reality can sound harsh, it’s pointing you towards a possible competitive advantage. As I said, less than 9/10 of companies that I get in contact with use this, and those companies are not doing bad at all and some are very famous. This is a great opportunity that you can use to your benefit.
Companies that do implement this, achieve an exquisite focus and alignment while raising motivation and productivity greatly. And this is all done without micromanaging. People are directed toward a goal and they use their creative potential to achieve it. Each person knows what they need to do and why they check on their results, and everyone benefits.
To achieve this, the first thing that you need to do is to have a Product goal. Then, make sure that it’s in a place that everyone can find it with the least amount of clicks.
Help everyone realize that they can have it very close to the board and that they can use it daily. Enable people to question the tasks on the Scrum board to achieve the Product goal. It’s very important for everyone to have these different flight levels in their mind and that they are accustomed to using them.
Create a workflow state on your Scrum board or your Roadmap where you will check if the items you are delivering or the Sprints you are finishing impact the Product goal. Make sure that you are checking regularly if the impact is occurring or not and use this feedback loop for your next sprints and tasks on the Scrum board.
Make sure that you communicate the Product Goal regularly and make sure that you overcommunicate it regularly. Put it in emails as part of your signature. Have it appear in various places. Let people make fun of it and how much you mention it. You will know that it’s enough when everyone knows it by heart.
2. Achieving The Product Goal Through Tasks On The Scrum Board Will Bring Success
If you have a Product goal that you are managing to achieve through tasks on the Scrum board, there is a great chance that you are succeeding.
This probably means that your Product goal is achieving your business goals as well and that you are not only creating a good product, but also a stable business. This should be the whole point of all the work that everyone in the company has invested.
It’s also a fact that there are companies that are achieving the Product goals and succeeding and companies that are achieving the Product goals and failing. Some companies are not managing to achieve their Product goals but are still succeeding. How is that so?
The thing is, that the only fact here is that even if you are achieving the Product goal through tasks on the Scrum board, it’s only certain that you are doing a good job navigating the tasks towards the Product goal. Why do I say this? Because if a Product goal is not crafted well, it doesn’t matter if you are achieving it or not.
With a Product goal that will not create any business impact, you can achieve your Product goal and still fail. Truth be told, this is still better than not knowing that achieving your Product goal will not bring you business impact. For example, if you see that you are getting closer to your Product goal, but not to your business goal, you need to rethink your Product goal. And if you got there fast, you might still have time to do so.
There are also cases where companies don’t have something like a Product goal or they are not achieving their Product goals, but they still have successful businesses. If you see this, do know that this is quite short-term, depending on the size of the company.
If a company doesn’t have a Product goal or is continuously failing to get closer to it, that only means that they have some time left before everything starts falling apart. It can be a matter of months or years, but it’s never a success story.
Make sure that you have your KPIs close and that you are actively monitoring them. Have them also be available to everyone in an easy and accessible manner.
While you are trying to achieve your Product goal, make sure that you are checking on your business metrics as well, and see if you are moving some of them, or not. Regularly inspect and adapt.
When crafting a Product goal, try to make it concrete, actionable, and measurable. Feel free to use the OKR framework. Bring these metrics down to Sprint goals and the Scrum board.
3. Scrum Boards Always Have A Clear Sprint Goal
Good Scrum boards have clear Sprint goals. And the Sprint goal should be inspiring, prominent, and easy to spot on the Scrum board. All stories and tasks on the board should be done to achieve the Sprint goal.
There is a possibility of having two Sprint goals as well (maybe even three?), although it’s a better practice to have only one to achieve maximum focus. Even if you have more than one Sprint goal, make sure that they are prioritized and that the second Sprint goal isn’t started before the first one is finished. Have in mind that there are some rare occasions where Sprint goals don’t make sense.
As said previously, make sure that each Sprint goal is taking you one step towards the Product goal and that it creates focus, alignment, and inspiration. It should also enable the team to be creative with the stories and tasks crafted for the Sprint goal, but we will get to that later. Let’s see the other side of this beautiful practice.
First of all, it’s very rare that Scrum teams are using Sprint goals and that they are making it prominent on the Scrum board. Even when there is a Spring goal, it’s mostly hidden or faded out on the Scrum board and the Scrum team doesn’t pay too much attention to it.
When there is a Sprint goal, it’s also very common that it’s badly crafted. What do I mean by this? Well, if your Sprint goal is formulated like “Finish X by the end of the sprint“ that is most likely not a true Sprint goal. Almost every sentence that is just saying what scope needs to be finished is not a good Sprint goal in most cases.
Also, teams rarely create Sprint goals that are tightly connected to the Product goal. There is also the fact that after you deliver something, there is some time needed to see if the results were achieved or not. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to finish work and consider the Sprint goal successful and to think that this will bring us closer to the Product goal without double-checking if this is happening or not.
When you craft a Sprint goal, make sure that it’s a part of the Scrum board. And also make sure that it’s there for everyone to see clearly. Once you do this, still make sure to communicate it regularly and, again, to overcommunicate it. You can use the Daily standups for this, your regular team meetings, or whatever makes sense and comes to your mind.
To create a good Sprint goal, make sure to devise it from the Product goal. Try to create an inspiring goal, but also try to make it measurable. See which metrics you could put to use and what will enable the Scrum team to see if they are making progress or not. This will not only inspire the Scrum team but will also get them more engaged with the work and much more creative in coming up with ways how to achieve the Sprint goal.
Whenever you write, do or finish a task, check if it’s connected to the Sprint goal and if it’s getting you closer to achieving it or not. It’s very useful to have a separate state that tracks the impact of certain items on the Sprint goal. If you are in a new Sprint but you still have items from the previous Sprint that you are tracking, don’t worry - Keep calm and track impact.
4. Kanban Boards Don’t Have Anything Like A Product Goal
Kanban is a very goal and metrics-driven approach, so should always be a high-level goal that you are trying to achieve. In Kanban, the regular team Kanban board is equal to Flight level 1, which is operational, but is a part of Flight level 2, which deals with coordination to achieve the high-level goal on Flight level 3, which is strategic.
Each of these levels has its own goals, but the Kanban board on Flight level 3 is quite the same as the Product goal and all other activities should be pointed to achieving it. Both the concept of the Product goal and Kanban boards at different Flight levels are very similar to OKRs. They have their differences, but we wouldn’t be wrong to say that they are following the same patterns.
The same things that are said for the Product goal and OKRs go for Flight level 3 - there should be a clear strategic goal and there should be metrics that will get us to that goal if we achieve them.
Again, the main myth is that people are using Kanban boards in this way. It’s not uncommon to see a team using a Kanban board and tracking only delivery metrics. It is very important to track delivery metrics and it’s infinitely better than not tracking metrics at all, but it doesn’t matter that much if your delivery rate is great if you are not creating any impact.
The same things that go for the Product goal, go here as well - if Flight level 3 is not set up properly, you might have a bad strategy and fail. Or you might have no strategy at all, which is even worse than a bad strategy.
Besides this, even if you are managing to achieve the needed metrics and the high-level goals, make sure that you are paying attention to business metrics. Check to see if they are going up as well or if they are still and you might need to change your strategy.
When using a Kanban board, make sure that you also have the Flight level 3 goals set up properly. You can create this strategic level also on your Flight level 2 Kanban board or Roadmap as well and make great use of it.
When you do have it, keep it close to your Kanban board. It’s just a click away from you so keep reminding yourselves of it and making sure that everyone knows that this is your main goal.
As you are doing all your tasks on the Flight level 1 Kanban board and moving items on the Flight level 2 Kanban board or Roadmap, make sure to see if the metrics are getting changed as well. Also, check the business metrics from time to time to see if there is a right chain reaction from these metrics.
5. There Are No Big Or Small Goals On A Kanban Board, Just Continuity
We’ll keep this one short as we’ve described the whole system in the previous section, so this will be more of a summary.
There is continuity, flexibility, and change on Kanban boards, but all the work that is being done should be directed towards a clear goal. And since it’s very difficult to target the biggest goal through small tasks on the Kanban board of a team, there are layers and levels of goals that are being tackled.
Kanban boards are combining this continuity with tracking metrics. And goals are one of those metrics. If these metrics are missing, the whole system is out of balance since you are not measuring probably the most important aspect - impact.
Again, it’s a myth that this is a regular practice with Kanban boards. But it should be made so if you want to succeed.
If you are using Kanban boards, make sure that you are tracking your delivery metrics and that you are aiming towards continuous improvement or Kaizen, as it’s called in Kanban.
Besides delivery, make sure to track quality metrics as well and see the distribution of the items that exist on your Kanban boards.
But if you want to use the Kanban board to its fullest, don’t stop there. Find a way to track the resilience of your team and also the impact that they are making or not. It’s important to measure all these to have a good overview. Use the second level of the Kanban board or Roadmap with tracking impacts. This is all part of properly using Kanban boards and doing Kaizen.
If you’ve enjoyed this and want to try out a free Scrum and Kanban board tool, feel free to do so anytime.