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Obstacles to Feature Teams

Photo by Andrii Ganzevych on Unsplash

Obstacles to Feature Teams

On paper, Feature Teams are awesome.

In reality… It is really hard to implement Feature Teams properly.

Why is it so? What are the stated reasons? What is preventing companies from just trying it and making it work?

A non-comprehensive list of stated obstacles to working in Feature Teams

  • How do we evaluate individual people performance? How to we set individual people compensation?
  • Who is accountable for the team’s performance?
  • How do we make sure people are skilled enough to work on XXX module?
  • It is not possible for people to be skilled enough to work on all modules of the company. (see note)
  • How people with different skills can work together?
  • Our people don’t want to work outside their area of expertise.
  • We strongly value people expertise. We want people to be experts in their respective fields.
  • This requires a deep change in the management structure.
  • Feature Teams sub-optimize people utilization.
  • How do you manage leaves and sick days within the Feature Team? Who replace people when they are away?
  • Who owns preparing upcoming topics, before they are assigned to any Feature Team?
  • How can people work simultaneously on the same topic?
  • How do you manage phases of product development within a single team? Design, programming, test, deployment…
  • How can the architect do his job properly with so many teams to work with?
  • How do you engage people with a single, overarching goal, when they have specific areas of expertise/interest?
  • We want owners for each module, someone who is accountable for its quality.
  • We want owners for each feature, someone who is accountable for its specification.
  • We cannot afford to slow down.
  • We don’t have the right people.
  • We don’t have enough people [for a given skillset], we’ll share some people between teams.
  • We can’t dedicate people to their teams, they have to work on other projects too.
  • The team cannot own the solution definition, this is the job of the architect/product management/marketing/CEO/…
  • The team cannot own the deployment part, this is the job of the Sys Admin.
  • We don’t trust teams to provide good solutions.
  • We don’t trust teams to manage the architecture on their own.
  • We don’t trust teams to test their work on their own.
  • We don’t trust teams to manage the production environment.
  • There are too many dependencies, the teams cannot work on their own.
  • Whenever someone touches something in the product, something else breaks.
  • How do you manage integration between the teams’ respective work?
  • Incremental design doesn’t make sense. It is so much more efficient to design the whole product at once.
  • Proper testing requires a huge amount of time and expertise. It must be done independently of the teams.
  • The unions are against it.
  • As a manager, what’s my role now? What am I supposed to do?
  • Who manages impediments now? How do we make sure they are managed?
  • People are not motivated enough to work differently.
  • How do we make sure technical debt is under control?
  • How teams stand up against the endless stream of features to implement, and take the time to manage technical debt?
  • How can we make sure teams are working on the good thing?
  • How can we make sure teams doesn’t over-engineer the product?

Please comment with more!

Note: Feature Teams can have some specific areas of expertise (link back)

It is not expected that all Feature Teams are able to work with any topic. Feature Teams can have some specific areas of expertise, which should be accounted for when planning and assigning work to the teams. Yet they should bring some flexibility by being able to work on a wide set of topics anyway. Finally, and maybe most importantly: when a Feature Team hasn’t the necessary skills… Learning happens.

Sources and further reading

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