I am currently working though goal setting sessions with each of the Scrum Masters at NewVoiceMedia.

As a foundation for this, we ran a personal retrospective for each of our Scrum Masters at NewVoiceMedia during December.  Part of the reason was simply that it’s important to look back and recognise what we did last year.  (You can read about it here.)

I have mixed feelings about goals.  I don’t think goals should always be ‘S.M.A.R.T‘, or even well thought out necessarily.  Not everyone responds well to even having a goal.  For some, it can feel restrictive, rather than empowering.

I think it’s more important to dream without restrictions.  You look forward and think about the sort of person you want to be in, say, a year’s time.

After that, your job each day is simply to take more steps towards that version of yourself, than steps away.

The main reason we ran the personal retrospectives was to encourage our Scrum Masters to THINK BIG in this goal-setting session.

Many people have a natural tendency to try and shrink goals to make them ‘realistic’.  After all, we want to be successful don’t we!  By reminding ourselves how much we achieved last year, meant we could encourage everyone to raise the bar looking forward as well.

Prep Work

I asked each Scrum Master to bring a list of whatever goals he or she wanted to achieve this year.  I did give them some criteria.

Goal Criteria:

  • Goals don’t have to be do-able all in this year.
  • If you have a huge goal, bring it with you, and we will work with that.
  • It is up to you how many goals you bring. (Most people brought between 5 and 8, which is a good number to work with).
  • Goals can be professional, or a mixture – it really doesn’t matter.

Goals needed to be written & brought to the session, one per post-it note (or index card if you prefer).  The goal-setting session itself took around an hour in total.

In The Session

I started by asking the Scrum Master initially to put their goals to one side.  Then I gave them as much time as needed (5 and 10 minutes as it turned out) to brainstorm values they found important.  These are the words that capture ideas that we each live by.

I gave them a few ideas for values to illustrate what I was looking for here.  Integrity, fun/humour, family, team spirit, learning, teaching.  This was a tricky thing, because I didn’t want to prime them with a set of values that weren’t their own.

As with the goals, I needed the values one per post-it note.

Once we had these, I asked them to prioritise the values.  It was quite hard to build a single list, but we persevered!  I aimed to work with the top 3 values but we flexed that depending on how difficult the Scrum Master found it to pick just the top 3!

A small word of warning here:  everyone found this exercise of prioritising extremely difficult to do!  That’s ok.

Next Steps

The Scrum Master takes their top value (I know, a ridiculous idea!) and then sorts their goals into priority order below it.  The idea is to check how well completing each goal will feel like you are living that particular value.

Once they have a prioritised list, take the lowest rated goal and give it 1000 points!  I know, it seems a lot, but we have many points to give away, and after all, these are all goals that are important to us.

Next we do a little relative estimating.  If that lowest-ranked goal is 1000 points, then how does that compare with say the goal ranked above it?  Is it twice as rewarding for your first chosen value?  10 times as rewarding?  What ever it is, write your points down and work your way up the list.

It is not unusual for a little shuffling of priorities to happen as points are assigned.

(We are going to repeat this process with each of the values.  You will need to differentiate the points you give each goal for each value.  I work with a pattern of the first letter of the value, so a ‘family’ value is F-points, an ‘Integrity’ value is I-points and so on.)

Once all the points for this particular value are assigned, ask the Scrum Master to talk you through them & plot them on a graph.  Draw a basic scale (lined paper is fine) on the Y axis.  The X axis is divided up first by goal, then by value.  (You end up with all the values for goal 1, then all the values for goal 2, and so on).

Rinse & Repeat

Once this is all done for the Scrum Master’s first value, I asked them to repeat the process of assessing each goal against their next value.  Then their next value, and so on until all the values you agreed to work with have been used to assess the goals.

Now For The Real Work

Reviewing the Graph

When you look at the graph with the Scrum Master, is there a goal(s) that has very low points for all values?  It may be that this is something they feel they ‘ought’ to do rather than something they are passionate about achieving.  The inverse is also interesting: is there a goal(s) that is clearly scoring much higher in all of the values than any of the other goals?

Visually representing the goals impact on the Scrum Master’s values allows relative comparison. This often gave some clarity – or at least some food for thought!

One Goal At A Time

Let’s Talk About ‘Done’

For each goal, discuss what ‘done’ looks like for the Scrum Master for the year.  Scrum Masters spend our lives coaching relative estimation, acceptance criteria, definition of done etc.  It is amazing how we might forget to apply this to ourselves!

This usually takes a little thought, so be prepared to leave some room to let them think about it.

What Is Your First Step?

Once the Scrum Master is clear how they will know they’ve achieved that goal, I ask what the first thing they need to do to move towards that goal.  Often goals can over-lap, so when someone has goals like ‘read more books’ and ‘set up a baking empire’, it is easy to offer prompts. Perhaps suggest reading a book or 2 on start up businesses for example.  Obviously each person is very different. How they move from where they are today to where they want to be in a year’s time is purely down to their own hard work and focus.

Keeping The Momentum

As part of our relationship, I meet with each Scrum Master every week. These weekly catch-ups are just that, to make sure we consciously make some time to catch up with each other.
With the goal-setting, Obviously, you can’t do the hard work for them, but you can help a little with the focus.
So before we finish this goal-setting session I agree with the Scrum Master the things they’d like me to hold them accountable for in a month or so.  Usually it is to deliver on those first steps, and when they do, we talk over next steps, and so on.
Beyond this, it’s their job each day is simply to take more steps towards that version of them self, than steps away.

Do you set goals every year, or this is your first time? Whichever it is, I hope you enjoy a productive year 🙂


P.S.     I was heavily influenced in the format of these sessions by my own experiences. at Portia Tung‘s School of Play: Carpe Diem, Carpe Annum workshop.  I wrote a little bit about it here, (and why goals are such a tricky subject).

Portia’s session was more psychologically sophisticated than my version for the Scrum Masters. However, I absolutely loved the idea of looking at my goals through the lens of things I value.  I gained insights and clarity, and ultimately it set me up for success.  Sorting out goals I’d chosen because I felt I ought to do them, from those that I was driven to succeed with, was invaluable for a high success rate.