"We need to utilize all of our Story Points" - that's a common dysfunction in many Scrum teams, and especially in SAFe's Agile Release Trains where teams operate on a Planning horizon of 3-5 Sprints. It results in an antipattern often called "Planning Tetris." It's extremely harmful, and here's why.
Accumulating Work in Process
Loss of money
Adding needless risk
Massive ripple effect
Prepare to Fail
Strangulating the team
No space for Creativity
No space for Growth
No space for Improvement
Now ... what then?
- Reduce the amount of features the team is working on in parallel to an absolute minimum. This minimizes blast radius.
- Instead of having people parallelize multiple topics, let "inefficient", "not-skilled" people take easier parts of the work to step up their game. That reduces the impact of low-probability events and gives everyone air to breathe.
- Put slack into the Sprints. The gained resilience can absorb impact. It also reduces the need for buffered estimates, countering Parkinson's Law and the Flaw of Averages. It also gives people air to breathe.
- Agree on Pull-Forward. When the team feels idle, they can always pull future topics into unused idle time. Nobody complains when a topic is finished ahead of time, everyone complains when something turns late. Pull Forward has no ripple effects or chaotic consequences.