All of these problems were persistent in a team I coached. Of course there were multiple options for incremental change but the option with the lowest investment but greatest impact was coaching around smaller stories to the team.
I observed and received feedback that challenging the product owners and development to adopt smaller stories for two iterations impacted planning, development, morale and trust positively.
The product owners changed how they prioritized work with small stories. Stories were pulled to play horizontally not by vertical chunks on the story map. They were able to discover that development could now play stories with the most value first and the business would now see a slice of the product across features.
The guesswork of estimating stories was removed with smaller stories because there were nominal or none unknowns. The acceptance criteria for the stories were minimal and meaningful conversations around it occurred that provided clear understanding to development on what it meant to be done.
Achieving the goal of defect free stories became attainable with small stories and technical practices. Confidence in code quality strengthened between development and the product owner with the ability to close multiple stories daily. The product owner was now able to see progress early and often.
Tracking the cycle time of the smaller stories was described as an adrenaline rush for development as they saw themselves going faster.
As a coach I surely had butterflies when the team decided to change their working agreements so that they would only play small stories; as well as, the team requesting more coaching on how to split stories.
Up next the team moving away from pointing stories and basing forecast on past performance of the number of stories delivered.
I am sold that small stories are a super power!