Action Engineering Agile Mindset: Stretch Goals

The Action Engineering team embraces an Agile mindset & Scrum practices in our work.
This series shares tips & coaching opportunities that work well for us.

Picture this. You’re a Product Owner, working on your backlog. You’re writing a user story, nailing down the acceptance criteria, and you get to a nice-to-have. The team think it’s a great idea; they’re all for it. You kind of see where they’re coming from, but you know that it’s not strictly necessary. What if you make it a stretch goal? It’s tempting to do when you don’t want to disappoint the team, but there are good reasons to stick to your guns and just say no:


  • Stretch goals create ambiguity. Has the user story been completed or not? Should downstream cards assume that the stretch goals will happen or not? It’s hard to say…
  • Stretch goals circumvent prioritization. If they’re separate enough that they’re not essential to your current user story, then they need to make it to the top of the backlog on their own merits. (This always makes me think of Senators tacking “riders” onto Congressional bills.)
  • Stretch goals introduce risk. If they’re not strictly part of the plan, they probably haven’t been thought through completely, and they may introduce unintended work for someone else.
  • Stretch goals mess up your velocity. When you’re sizing a user story, you really need to know what’s in and what’s out; the size isn’t meaningful when the required work is variable.
  • Stretch goals can tarnish your feeling of accomplishment. A user story may be completed, but somehow it still feels lacking if you’ve left stretch goals on the table.

We’ve often worked with Product Owners on MBE Implementations who find it hard to balance staying focused on goals with keeping the team motivated. Here are some suggestions:


  • Give the would-be stretch goal its own card. Separating it out allows you find its rightful place in the backlog. If it’s near the top, that’s great! The team might be able to pull it into the sprint after all. If it ends up farther down the backlog, then it’s best that you didn’t take the time for it.
  • Do give the would-be stretch goal extra consideration. Make sure you know why the team wanted it to be part of the acceptance criteria. Even if you can’t make it a priority right now, it’s good to have that insight from the team.
  • Review your roadmap. When you’re entrenched in the day-to-day, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. A quick roadmap review can help the team (and you!) re-focus on the goals you’re working toward.
  • Thank your team. If you are working with people who care enough to lobby for extra requirements, realize that you’ve got a good thing going!

Do you feel like your priorities are understood by the team? By external stakeholders?

Want to chat with us about how your team is practicing Agile in your MBE journey?
Send us a message!

Pamela Gillaspie, Social Architect


Social Architect
Certified Product Owner


Jennifer Herron, Founder & CEO


Founder & CEO
Certified Product Owner

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