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How to define tasks for a User Story without spending a fair amount of time on these ?

We seem to find ourselves running into a fundamental problem during out Sprint planning meetings. Some of it is from our older methods, but partially it also seems to be a problem with the way we are using our Scrum processes. Consider the process before getting into Scrum. We would have a list of features defined and agreed upon by the Engineering and Product Management teams to be done in the defined product development time cycle. However, things were problematic when actually getting into the actual stage of working out the tasks for these features. Many of these features involved features that were not done before, and so it was required that these features be broken down into tasks, and the team leads were assigned to this purpose. It would take a matter of some time for the features to be actually broken down into a matter of tasks. The feature team would need to have a few meetings to discuss the feature, talk to the User Design specialist to understand the way that the feature would work, and then work out the tasks.
However, it would take more time to work out the estimates for the task, and in many cases, this was a matter of guesswork, since the work required for the tasks had never been done before; getting these estimates involved some amount of discussion. And once these estimates were in place, when the actual work was happening, these estimates did change many times (sometimes the User Design was different from the one initially considered, and in many cases, the estimates were actually different from the work that was needed to be done to complete the task). This meant that the total effort needed to complete a feature was different from the estimates; and this happened for many of the features.
Now, when we started using the Scrum process, this became an open question. For many of the major User Stories that were a translation of the major features, getting tasks broken down into the User Stories was a major effort by itself, and it was postulated by the team that earlier it would take so much time to break down the features into tasks, how would it be possible to do this during the Sprint Planning process ? It was somewhat difficult to answer this question, although we did some amount of planning on how to define User Stories in such a manner that they would be readily understandable and could be broken down into discrete tasks that could be estimated with some amount of accuracy. This took some time to actually happen, and there were many cases where the effort estimation did not match the actual effort needed for the tasks.

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