Improving your Sprint with Acceptance Criteria

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Let’s treat Scrum Events like Product Backlog Items. A good PBI has a clear Outcome, Who it is for, and Acceptance Criteria. 

THE SPRINT  – It’s the first event! 

Note: The Sprint is the first of Scrum’s five Events. Because it is a “container Event” in which all the other Events reside, it is often overlooked as an Event. 

Outcome: To create increments of usable value supporting the Sprint Goal

Who is it for?: The Scrum Team

Acceptance Criteria:

  • Did we focus on a single Sprint Goal? 
  • Did we create usable increments that support the Sprint Goal? 
  • Did we take time to refine the Product Backlog for future Sprints? 
  • Did we support Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation? 
  • Did we live into the values of Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage? 

Note: The Sprint is the first Event in Scrum. 

Like some forgotten member of a now-famous band, the Sprint is constantly forgotten as being one of the five Events of Scrum. More often than not, Product Backlog Refinement is assumed to be the fifth Event. It’s not, and that’s an article for another time. 

The Sprint is the container in which all work, including the other four Events, is done to meet the product goal. 

Outcome: Every Sprint, “the Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.” Scrum’s purpose is to “generate value.” The Agile Manifesto’s third Principle espouses delivering in short time scales—the shorter, the better. 

The Sprint is the short iteration in which usable value is created. 

Who is it for?: It’s the container for the team to do its work. The container helps provide the focus the team needs to make their commitments from Sprint Planning. 

Acceptance Criteria: Did we focus on a single Sprint Goal? 

The Sprint Goal is a concrete stepping stone to the Product Goal. If the team allows itself to be distracted from the Sprint Goal, it risks the Product Goal. We want to focus on outcome, not output. 

It is not enough to say, “This PBI is valuable.” If the Product Goal is “Family Reunion in Orlando, Florida,” then “Scuba diving in Hawaii” has no business in the Product Backlog. Yes, it is valuable, and while valuable, it provides no value to the Product Goal. 

Acceptance Criteria: Did we create usable increments that support the Sprint Goal? 

The key word here is “usable.” Usable means the completed work has met the quality needed to be… well… usable. 

In Agile, work is never partially done. It is either “Done” or “Not Done.” 

Usable is Done. 

Acceptance Criteria: Did we take time to refine the Product Backlog for future Sprints? 

Scrum is not just about generating value. As a framework rooted in Agile, it is about generating sustainable value. 

The Product Backlog is like a gas tank. If it runs dry, the team has no gas to fuel it, or takes on poorly refined gas that damages the team. 

We must constantly refine new gas to ensure there is always enough for the team to deliver sustainable value. 

Acceptance Criteria: Did we support Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation? 

Scrum is founded on empiricism, which asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is observed. It enacts empiricism through these three pillars, which, working together, create the framework for the team to generate value sustainably. 

We can’t go through the process motions and expect Scrum to succeed. It would be like conducting experiments in a lab with the lights turned off. 

Acceptance Criteria: Did we live into the values of Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage? 

The Scrum framework will collapse without Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation. 

The Scrum Team will collapse if the values don’t exist. 

This could be a whole article in itself, so we’ll leave it at that for today. 

What acceptance criteria would you add? 

This has been a 🦍 Gorilla Coach 🦍 Scrumdementals moment. Have a nice day.

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