Don't Forget your GMO's

Scrum introduced the concept of Spring Goals - an outcome the team aims to accomplish by the end of the sprint. Rally, aka CA Agile utilizies ‘Milestones’ as the key deliverables or decision points in a project and is a term familiar to Project planners. Scaled Agile introduced the idea of Objectives for a team’s Program Increment, or a series of sprints.

Whether you prefer or use goals, milestones, or objectives, these GMOs play a critical role in a team’s success. A goal, milestone, or objective (GMO) gives a team focus, a rallying cry, an item to circle around as the team develops a solution and writes code. When crafted by the team, a GMO provides an additional connection to the work. It also helps leadership gauge if the team understands the work and the value it provides.

A GMO benefits stakeholders too. When crafted in language both stakeholders and teams understand, it brings both groups together. Using language that only 1 group understands builds walls, not bridges. It also gives stakeholders an idea of when work will be delivered, so that they can make plans based on when a deliverable is met. This might include training, marketing material, or the launch of a business initiative. Whatever the activity, having an idea of when the GMO will be delivered aids in business planning.

In crafting a GMO, there are 3 important things to keep in mind. First, the GMO should be SMART. That is, the GMO should be Specific - providing enough details as necessary. It should be Measurable - we could measure the GMO to guage success (and a yes/no answer is measurable). A is Achievable - it’s something that the team has the skills and everything necessary to accomplish it. R is Relevant - that is it is something desirable that the business and stakeholders want. Finally, T is Time-bound (or time-based). That is, the goal is achievable within a certain timebox and it has a rough date for accomplishment in mind.

Second, a GMO should be written so that all parties can understand what it is. It should be written so that business stakeholders understand the value the GMO will provide. It should avoid all jargon, including business jargon. Everyone who interacts with the GMO should understand it - including the development team. This will require the technical team to understand the domain their software operates in. That is, they must understand the business well so they know the terminology in use, the concepts behind it, how they connect, and the processes behind the concepts.

Finally, and most importantly, a GMO should not be so constrictive that there is only 1 way to achieve it. If there is only 1 way to accomplish the GMO, how agile can the team be when it receives feedback that the direction they are going won’t work or won’t be suitable for for the customer in its current configuration? A GMO so specific that the team is boxed in ceases to be an agile goal, objective, or milestone.

Regardless of what framework you use to develop software, a Goal, Objective, or Milestone plays an important role in developing software. It benefits the development team, leaders, stakeholders, and customers. It provides a focal point for efforts. It ensures groups are aligned on deliverables and purpose. It brings people together through a common language to a common purpose. And when crafted well, it aids in a team’s maturity; crafted poorly, and it will detract from their ability to respond to change.

So unlike GMOs found in food, we should all make certain we include these GMOs in our agile practice.