Feature Leadership

Feature team

Imagine you lead the team of 8 people. Maria, George, and Lena have been working within the team for 5+ years. They all are entirely passioned to lead the team as you do. And to be frank, they are ready for taking the role. What to do? You didn’t see it coming.

What if the company is small, without typical career growth opportunities?
What if there are no other teams to suggest?

Leaving company seems the only way for Maria, George and Lena to fulfil their ambitions. Result: minus three excellent employees.

Feature leadership practice will be extremely beneficial. It is what we invented in Atola ourselves and sincerely adore using it.

How feature leadership works

Agile leadership makes a foundation for the whole approach. It all starts with a feature lead who shows up depending on her desire. And there is a planned large feature that demands work of more than 2 people. So basically it’s when classical pair of programmer + QA is not enough for a task.

Let’s look at it step-by-step how it works in Atola.

1. Feature lead appears

You start with a large flat team. Then one of your teammates claims she want to become a feature lead and there is a significant effort-demanding feature in a backlog.

2. Decompose the feature

The feature lead deeply analyses the feature and decomposes it into linked subtasks. All new subtasks are atomic and can be assigned to other colleagues.

3. Form the feature team

The feature lead decided who to invite into her team. She aligns her idea of work distribution with the total release plan.

By the way, the team can be scaled to a cross-functional team including marketer, UX designer, sales person, product guy, or even customer itself.

4. Work together

Two key principles work here.

  1. Responsibility
    The feature lead takes complete responsibility for the final result.
    Thus, everybody understands the lead has a right to resolve a conflict in her own way if the feature team gets stuck in discussions.
  2. Freedom
    The feature lead can run experiments: use any methodologies, approaches, practices, in spite of what is used in the whole company.
    Freedom to lead changes!

5. Flatten the team

Work is done. Feature is ready for delivery. This is when the feature team disappears. Having a retrospective would be a nice move after all.

The feature team (1 or more) flattens. Now you are back into a state of a large flat team. It’s now ready for a creation of a new custom feature team.


Iterations and leadership are typical core things for people working in an agile way. The practice of feature teams heavily utilizes both of them:

  • anyone in a team can lead a feature team
  • feature teams emerge and disappear in an iterative manner

As a result, all the team members have an opportunity to fulfill their ambitions of leading and have freedom of playing with their ideas.

Vitaliy Mokosiy



CTO in Atola Technology. Gamification enthusiast. Agile proponent

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Vitaliy Mokosiy

CTO in Atola Technology. Gamification enthusiast. Agile proponent