I'm working on a large program, of which my team are a small but vital part. We have three development teams on aligned on three weekly sprint cycles. We assign stories from the backlog based on a development team's own capacity (the number of story points) which they commit to for a given sprint.
- Developers are required to report their capacity commitment for Sprint N+1 on the Thursday of the 2nd week of Sprint N.
- Developers are also required to factor into this Sprint N+1 commitment the approximate effort they will spend in estimating stories to go into future sprints.
- We have an internal mandate from management that for a story to go into sprint N+1, the estimation must be completed by the Wednesday of the final week of sprint N.
- The amount of estimation effort per sprint is highly variable, but usually between 1 and 2 days.
The problem we are seeing, which is recurring pretty much every sprint, is that the teams prioritise their sprint N delivery over the sprint N+1 estimation. This usually results in the estimation work being shoved up towards the end of sprint N. When this happens, we often do not have sufficient estimated stories in the backlog to feed Sprint N+1.
This comes up time and again in sprint retrospectives. I have approached management and suggested a solution which would involve having a separate "estimation backlog" which could be used to feed the team backlogs. However, this has been rejected.
The problem can be somewhat mitigated by getting the estimation tasks to the developers as early in the sprint cycle as possible - the earlier we get them, the more likely they are to be estimated within the deadline for inclusion in next sprint. However, this is often not possible.
I wondered if anyone could advise on a way to make this problem more manageable, or suggest a solution which I could take to management?