G.R.O.W.ing S.M.A.R.T. Agile Teams

The GROW model, developed by John Whitmore, is a framework for coaching individuals, groups, teams, and organizations. The acronym stands for Goals, Reality, Options, Will.

Understanding the framework


Goals provide specific objectives that benefit the individuals, groups, teams, or organizations. Knowing how to work with clients to create achievable goals is critical.

Applying the S.M.A.R.T. acronym can help guide the creation of goals. Goals should be:

  • Specific – agree a well-defined, unambiguous action or event.
  • Measurable – agree how the outcome of achieving the goal will be measured.
  • Attainable – ensure the goal is realistic and achievable.
  • Relevant – ensure the goal relates to the situation.
  • Time-bound – agree a realistic, practical time by which the goal will be achieved.


It is important to understand the current reality of where the individual, group, team, or organization is at. Understand their starting point and their context.


There will usually be more than one way of moving from the current reality to the desired goal(s). The coach helps guide the client in deciding which options to select.


People need to be motivated to achieve their goals. Ideally this motivation is intrinsic; coming form within the person themselves. Sometime the coach needs to work to help people see and overcome obstacles that stand in the way of achieving their goals.

GROW SMART with Agile

There are many ways to employ the G.R.O.W. and S.M.A.R.T. techniques when working with agile teams and organizations. For example, the output of an end-of-iteration retrospective can be prioritized and actioned so that the team can make concrete, measurable improvements. Take the top 3 (for example) items from the retrospective output, and create goals that are S.M.A.R.T. Use the G.R.O.W. model as a guide to achieving these goals.

Turn the top 3 items into Goals. Some goals may take longer to achieve, but end-of-iteration reviews and retrospectives should be used to track progress. As a ScrumMaster or Coach, work with the team to understand the top 3 Specific issues in more detail. Understand the root causes of the issues, including why and how these have become issues for the team, i.e., how these issues have become part of the team’s Reality. Understand their context. Define Options for achieving the goal. Agree how the team will Measure the success of these goals. If the team agrees that these goals are Attainable then allocate time and owners in the coming iteration to address them. Make sure the goals are Relevant to the team and their work. A healthy agile team is already motivated to achieve their goals. A retrospective yields goals that the team has felt strongly enough about to raise, discuss, prioritize, and seek to address. The Will to achieve the goal is there. As a Coach or ScrumMaster, if the will is not there you need to help the team understand why that is, and either help them to find the motivation or help them by removing obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals. Iteration boundaries provide a natural Time-box to track progress towards achieving goals.

This is just one example of how we can apply G.R.O.W. and S.M.A.R.T. with agile teams.


Jean Paul Cortes. “How to Use the G.R.O.W. Coaching Model for Getting Things Done”.

Doran, George T. “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives.” Management Review, Nov 1981, Volume 70 Issue 11.

Mike Morrison / RapidBI team. “History of SMART Objectives“.