Rob on Salesforce
Scrum: to commit, or not to commit

It’s sprint planning time again: groom (shudder) your user stories, shove ‘em in the sprint, and commit to deliver them.

Or do you? If you and your stakeholders see the sprint backlog as a commitment to complete those stories, you’re doing Scrum wrong.

The stories in a sprint are a forecast, not a commitment. You’re estimating what work the team will complete in the sprint, not promising it.

Why does this matter?

Well, let’s say you commit to delivering all your user stories. That’s fine if nothing changes during the sprint. But when has that ever happened?

Things will change. You’ll learn about the complexity of the work as you go; you’ll get sick; an integration will hit a snag.

But you’ve committed to delivering your stories. So you try to deliver them anyway: you work late, make compromises, and throw something to testers.

What happens next?

  • They pass testing, and production gets your technical debt. This slows you down in the future. The project suffers.
  • They fail testing, and the story isn’t delivered. You fail to deliver on a commitment to the stakeholders. The project suffers.

So don’t treat the sprint backlog as a commitment. Treat it as what it is: a forecast.

Does this mean that there’s no commitment in Scrum? Of course not. Here’s what should happen instead:

  • Commit to fulfill the Sprint Goal, which if well-crafted, tells the Development Team members why they are building the Increment. Unlike the list of selected Product Backlog Items for the Sprint, the Sprint Goal is coarse enough to allow the Development Team to navigate and satisfy the commitment. This avoids anyone blindly expecting that any single selected item will be delivered under any circumstance.
  • Commit to assure that they deliver a usable increment at the end of the Sprint, which includes only items that are fully finished according to the Definition of Done that has been agreed to beforehand.
  • Commit to continuously inspect and adapt, to better support the empiricism that lies at the heart of Scrum.
  • And at the end, commit to the values and elements that build up the framework, which allow us to tell that we are doing Scrum instead of anything else. (Source:


Last modified on 2021-06-10