For years and years, I've been a strong advocate of goal-setting within your agile teams. Areas where I think goals are important include:

  • At the daily stand, focusing the conversations towards the teams' goals;
  • During sprint planning and at the sprint review, focus towards the sprint goal;
  • If you're doing releases, ala SAFe release trains or a similar mechanism, then having a release-level goal is important;
  • To me, Definition of Done and Definition of Ready, are goal-oriented. Providing clarity on the teams' constraints;
  • And finally, agile chartering or Liftoff planning contains quite a bit of goal identification and setting.


Sometimes, I actually learn something and change my mind. I know, I know, be still your heart. But it does happen. Or I reevaluate a position and shift it. Please note, this is one of those times.

I came across the following post by James Clear -

In it, he makes the case for focusing on the system over goals

By system, he's referring to the HOW we approach something rather than trying to achieve a specific end-state goal. For example,

We could define a goal of achieving a steady-state for our team's velocity so that we show (1) value delivery, (2) work/life balance, and (3) pair-learning within the team. BTW, the goal is 25 story points per sprint.


We could focus on the system of how we operate within each sprint. Taking aim at things like:

  • Sustainable pace;
  • Collaboration & pairing;
  • Value delivery - confirmation, demo, feedback;
  • Team-based learning;
  • and, continuous improvement.

and then let the results speak for themselves. I.e., we'll have a velocity output that, if we're paying attention, contains all of those underlying principles in action. And the goal (number) becomes much less relevant. In fact, it could be a limiting factor as we continuously improve.

Wrapping Up

While a part of me still likes goals and goal-setting, James has strongly influenced my thinking. I'm now of the mind that goals are a second-class citizen to the how or the system. Yes, we need both.

But which comes first?

I'm now leaning towards...system.

Stay agile my friends,