How do you handle trade-offs between short-term and long-term goals in the backlog?

Navigating Product Backlogs: Short-Term vs Long-Term Goals

In the ever-evolving world of Agile and Scrum, one question constantly surfaces, so today, I’m here to delve deep into this age-old dilemma that often rears its head in the realm of product backlog management. The question – How do you handle trade-offs between short-term and long-term goals in the backlog?

Through my journey, I’ve learned to sail smoothly between these two crucial waypoints, and I am thrilled to share these insights with you right from the trenches of my experiences.

So grab a seat and let’s take a closer look into this often overlooked but critical aspect of backlog management.

Defining Short-Term and Long-Term in the Backlog Landscape

First and foremost, I must start with it depending on what we mean by “short-term” and “long-term”.

In my extensive experience, the most successful backlogs are the ones that are only looking at the next few months down the line.

That’s indeed a pretty short-term goal. If you’re plotting something even shorter, you’re probably at sprint goal, so there’s no handling here. 🌟

It’s essential to demarcate these timelines clearly to avoid unnecessary tangles as we move ahead. 🚀

Goal-based Roadmaps

Venturing further than a few months means stepping into a zone where the goals will shift and change, and we can invariably run into the volatility of the situation, which just is.

It’s not a good or bad thing. That’s just the way of the world we live in. 🌟

At this juncture, we are not staring at a backlog; instead, we are crafting a roadmap, a vibrant, living entity that adapts to the changing landscapes of our product journey.

I must emphasise that I have fallen very strongly in favour of product goal-based roadmaps, regardless of your product or the maturity of your market.

This strategy aligns everything in your backlog to focus sharply on delivering the current product goal, such as elevating customer satisfaction from an MPS of 25 to 30.

We strive tirelessly to progress in the right direction, keeping this goal as our North Star, while it’s a valid goal and the most important thing to be working on.

Agile Symphony of Goals

Imagine your product goals as a symphony of coordinated movements. Front and centre, we have the immediate product goal, commanding our focused attention.

Our subsequent goal is Lined up next, gradually transitioning from a headline abstract idea to tangible actions, evolving into actual things we can experiment with and research build.

Further beyond lies a repository of other significant goals, carefully stacked, ready to take centre stage when the time is right.

This approach, dear friends, has successfully decoupled the problem of long-term versus short-term goals.

It brings back the much-needed flexibility, drastically reducing the waste that many roadmap conversations tend to generate.

Harnessing Flexibility with Goal-Based Approach

The sheer beauty of this goal-based approach lies in its ability to foster flexibility and agility. It’s what truly distinguishes this approach from any other way.

It prepares us to adeptly shift our focus from one goal to another without drama, no big amounts of rework, and no wasted effort in talking about features that you’re just not going to deliver in two years. 🌟

Remember, retaining this level of abstraction is crucial, where we are propelled by the aspiration to attain a defined percentage increase in user engagement or profitability per user instead of getting entangled in features and functionalities.

This way, we keep our approach fresh, vibrant, and aligned with the ever-changing market dynamics.

Elevate Your Agile Journey with John’s Courses

Embark on an enriching learning voyage through my Agile and Scrum courses, where we unravel these concepts further, enabling you to steer your projects towards uncharted territories of success. 🚀

Because when structured well, you can have your short-term goals; as long as they make sense, you should chase them.

Join Me and Let’s Redefine the Agile Landscape Together

Ready to embrace the future with a renewed perspective? 💡

Let’s join forces and forge a path where you can have your short-term goals and as long as they make sense to chase, you should chase them,” steering your projects towards unparalleled heights of success. 🚀

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Agile Coaches page.

If you are inspired by the idea of an online apprenticeship for a scrum master, visit

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

For more information on John McFadyen, visit or connect with John on LinkedIn at

#agile #agilecoach #agilecoaching #agileprojectmanagement #agileproductdevelopment #agility #businessagility #scrum #scrummaster #scrumtraining #scrumcertification #scrumalliance #agilecentre #johnmcfadyen #coach #coaching #certifiedscrummaster

Keywords: David Marque, Stephen Bungay, Agile Leadership, Influential Thought Leaders

Hashtags: #AgileLeadership #ThoughtLeadership #AgileTransformation #ScrumMaster


#Agile, #AgileCoach, #Scrum, #ScrumMaster, #AgileCentre, #ProductOwner, #BusinessAnalyst, #AgileProjectManagement, #BusinessAgility, #ScrumTraining, #AgileProductDevelopment.

author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

Like this post? Share with friends & colleagues using the share buttons below.


Related Blog Posts

Learn + Discover Scrum
John McFadyen
Deploy + Improve Scrum
John McFadyen
Deploy + Improve Scrum
John McFadyen
Deploy + Improve Scrum
John McFadyen