How to use Evidence-Based Management and Scrum (Part 1): Bridging EBM How to use Evidence-Based Management and Scrum (Part 1): Bridging EBM How to use Evidence-Based Management and Scrum (Part 1): Bridging EBM How to use Evidence-Based Management and Scrum (Part 1): Bridging EBM How to use Evidence-Based Management and Scrum (Part 1): Bridging EBM How to use Evidence-Based Management and Scrum (Part 1): Bridging EBM

How to use Evidence-Based Management and Scrum (Part 1): Bridging EBM goals with the Scrum Guide

 

Scrum.org developed its Evidence-Based Management (EBM) practices placing a strong emphasis on goals and experimentation. EBM's key value areas are also important, but the critical focus is on goals and how to use them to achieve further organizational gain.

This part I of a three-part series will focus on goals. We’ll examine how the goals set out in the EBM guide correspond to the Scrum Guide and some tools and formats for setting workable goals. Part II will focus on experimentation, and Part III will focus on measurement.

Scrum.org's Evidence-Based Management Guide begins by including the following elements:

  • Strategic Goal, which is something important that the organization would like to achieve. This goal is so big and far away, with many uncertainties along the journey, that the organization must use empiricism. Because the Strategic Goal is aspirational and the path to it is uncertain, the organization needs a series of practical targets, such as the following:
    • Intermediate Goals - achievements indicating the organization is on the way to its Strategic Goal. The path to the Intermediate Goal is often still somewhat uncertain but not wholly unknown.
    • Immediate Tactical Goals -  critical near-term objectives toward which a team or group of teams will work toward Intermediate Goals.
    • Starting State -  where the organization is when it starts its journey relative to the Strategic Goal.
    • Current State - where the organization is currently relative to the Strategic Goal.

So how, if at all, do goals in EBM tie in with goals in Scrum? 

First, some context might help as we explore this question:

The 2020 Scrum Guide added a Product Goal commitment to the Product Backlog. See the addition of commitments to each artifact athttps://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/addition-commitments-each-artifact  and what's different in the 2020 Scrum Guide athttps://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/whats-different-2020-scrum-guide.

Here are some key extracts from the 2020 Scrum Guide:

  • The Product Goal describes a future state of the product which can serve as a target for the Scrum Team’s planning.
  • An Increment is a concrete stepping stone toward the Product Goal.
  • The Product Owner is also accountable for effective Product Backlog management, which includes: developing and explicitly communicating the Product Goal.
  • The Scrum Team is a cohesive unit of professionals focused on one objective at a time, the Product Goal.
  • At Sprint Planning, the Product Owner ensures that attendees are prepared to discuss the most important Product Backlog items and how they map to the Product Goal. 
  • At the Sprint Review, the Scrum Team presents the results of their work to key stakeholders, and progress toward the Product Goal is discussed.
  • The Product Goal is the long-term objective for the Scrum Team. They must fulfill (or abandon) one objective before taking on the next.

Practitioners will be eager to understand how the Product Goal maps to EBM's goals. The mapping is not exact, and it depends on the context. 

Let’s look at Scrum and EBM goals through the lens of the SMART criteria. SMART is an acronym that stands for specificmeasurableachievablerealistic and anchored within a timeframe.

The Scrum Guide’s Product Goal might be sooner, more realistic, more tactical, and SMART. Or, it can be later, more idealistic, and a long way from SMART. EBM’s Strategic Goal is doable but might not embody all the SMART components. A Product Goal is more likely to align with an EBM Strategic or Intermediate Goal. However, it could be Tactical or border Intermediate and Tactical.

Using the fictional municipality of Townville, here are examples to illustrate the above:

  • Almost impossible product vision - We want to eliminate pedestrian deaths and injuries on roadways in Townville as measured by the reduction in reported pedestrian injuries and deaths.
  • Strategic - We want to eliminate pedestrian deaths on roadways in Townville as measured by the reduction in reported pedestrian deaths and reduce pedestrian injuries by 75 percent.
  • Intermediate - We want to half the number of pedestrian injuries and deaths on roadways in Townville as measured by the reduction of reported pedestrian injuries and deaths.
  • Intermediate to Tactical Identify all reasons for pedestrian injuries and deaths on Townville roadways.
  • Tactical Implement speed limit reductions, install digital speed reminder signs, increase lighting, improve signage, create protected pedestrian corridors in problem areas.

For further context, we can look at the Scrum vs. EBM goals through the FAST criteria. The FAST goals acronym outlines goals that are the focus of frequent discussions, set ambitiously, measured by specific metrics and transparent.

An almost impossible perfection vision is not FAST. A Tactical goal is usually not as focused on organization/customer/end-user outcomes/effects as a Product Goal. Therefore, only the following would be Product Goal candidates for the above context:

  • Strategic - We want to eliminate pedestrian deaths on roadways in Townville as measured by the reduction of reported pedestrian deaths and reduce pedestrian injuries by 75 percent.
  • Intermediate - We want to half the number of pedestrian injuries and deaths on roadways in Townville as measured by the reduction of reported pedestrian injuries and deaths.
  • Intermediate to Tactical - Identify all reasons for pedestrian injuries and deaths on Townville roadways, or test a hypothesis for whether digital speed reminder signs would reduce the level of speeding in a block of Townville by 50%.

A Product Goal could be Tactical, but it's unlikely because there is only one Product Goal.

Given that EBM has more than one goal type, from a Scrum perspective, one might have:

  • a product vision that is Strategic,
  • a Product Goal that is Strategic, Intermediate, or Intermediate to Tactical,
  • and a Sprint Goal that is Tactical.

or

  • a Product Goal that is Strategic, Intermediate, or Intermediate to Tactical,
  • and a Sprint Goal that is Tactical.

or

  • a Product Goal that is Strategic or Intermediate,
  • and a Sprint Goal that is Intermediate to Tactical.

In relation to the Product Goal:

  • the objective is the 1st order concern
  • time (if it's a concern at all) is a 2nd order concern (let's avoid fixed-scope notions)
  • time horizons can be useful

 

The usefulness of time horizons

Scrum does not dictate that you set a specific goal time horizon; the objective is the priority. However, some people find time horizons to be a helpful benchmark, which is fine as long as we don’t fix the scope.

The following table provides examples of reasonable time horizons for each type of goal.

  • Almost Impossible Perfection Vision → 5+ years
  • Strategic Product Goal  1-3 years
  • Intermediate Product Goal  → 3-6 months
  • Intermediate to Tactical Goal Product Goal  2-3 months

But there is only one Product Goal so choose one.

Goal formatting options

There are several ways to tackle the task of creating goals as illustrated below.

The key is to use empiricism to discover if the Product Goal or product vision is wrong or if the Strategic Goal or Intermediate Goal is wrong.

Tips for creating goals 

Here are some tips for creating goals:

  • What is the problem we are trying to solve? How do we know this is the right problem to tackle?
  • What are the needs/wants we're trying to serve?
  • Articulate how success will be measured
  • What is the opportunity we're addressing? Why this opportunity and not others?
  • Do we have any links to customer research, conversations, or observations from data?
  • What assumptions/hypotheses need to be tested?

Conclusion 

Goals affect how we behave. In Scrum, they enhance focus and support the Scrum values and empiricism.

Goals:

  • Provide an inspectable and adaptable direction of travel / shared purpose for the product
  • Have outcome/effect orientation
  • Allow flexibility
  • Foster creativity
  • Inspire the Scrum team
  • Do not equate to scope, activities, or outputs
  • Are not necessarily SMART
  • Should be FAST

To get started, ask what small steps you can take to improve goal orientation? What's your first possible step?

In summary, Evidence-Based Management has goal types that assist with providing a direction of travel. EBM directs us to use (evidence-based) empiricism to prove if the goals we’ve set are wrong. Scrum also uses goals and they somewhat align with EBM’s. Context matters,– the Product Goal in Scrum might align with a Strategic, Intermediate, or Intermediate to Tactical Goal from an EBM perspective. 

In part II, we’ll discuss experimentation orientation and evidence-based empiricism to discover if the goal is wrong. In part III, we’ll look at EBM's key value areas.

 

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