Stretch objectives describe any task an agile team plans to complete without expressly committing to do so. Teams incorporate stretch objectives during a Sprint or Program Increment (PI) as part of Scaled Agile. They are used when the agile team is unsure of its capacity to attain an objective. Therefore, stretch objectives are instead outcomes that, while extremely desirable, are not the difference between the success or failure of each sprint.
Understanding stretch objectives
Teams incorporate stretch objectives during a Sprint or Program Increment (PI) as part of Scaled Agile.
They are used when the agile team is unsure of its capacity to attain an objective. This capacity may be hindered for several reasons:
- Objectives with new technology requiring time-boxed exploration. Since meeting objectives is reliant on successful exploration, there is no point in making a firm commitment.
- An inability to make accurate estimations. Again, this is a time-boxed activity that places restrictions on meeting objectives.
- A history of overcommitment leading to experimentation around more acceptable levels during PI planning.
- An organizational culture which neither supports nor protects failures. This causes teams to avoid overextending themselves.
- An organization with a very narrow target band for Program Predictability Measure. This also leads to a similar situation where teams only commit to what they are confident of achieving.
When effort is estimated for each Sprint, it is important to note that stretch objectives are excluded from estimations. In other words, they are not an excuse for stakeholders to overload a team with more work than it could conceivably complete.
Stretch objectives are instead outcomes that, while extremely desirable, are not the difference between the success or failure of each sprint. For best results, the total allowance for stretch objectives should be somewhere between 10 and 15% of the total capacity.
Benefits of stretch objectives
Though they may not be immediately obvious, stretch objectives do have some important benefits for agile teams.
- Predictability – stretch objectives improve the predictability of business value delivery because they are not included in team commitments. Nor are they counted against teams in terms of Program Predictability Measure.
- Improved economics – without stretch objectives, an agile team must commit to a 100% scope in a fixed timebox. Inevitably, this situation forces teams to compromise on quality or create system buffers. These can then accumulate, reducing throughput by converting uncertain earliness into certain lateness.
- Reliability – by their very nature, stretch objectives represent variable scope giving teams greater confidence in their ability to deliver main priorities. In turn, this increases trust between the team and stakeholders as committed objectives are continually met.
- Flexibility – lastly, stretch objectives provide the capacity margin needed to meet commitments and reliable delivery on a cadence. However, they are also flexible enough to allow a shift in priorities as fact patterns change.
- Stretch objectives are used in agile software development. They describe any task an agile team strives to complete but ultimately cannot commit to.
- Stretch objectives help teams who are unsure of their capacity remove uncertainty. This uncertainty is caused by new technology implementation, a history of team overcommitment, or a poor organizational culture that neither supports nor protects failure.
- Stretch objectives deliver many benefits to agile teams. They improve the predictability of business value delivery and in so doing, improve project economics. More confident teams tend also to be more reliable and flexible in meeting committed objectives.
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