Feature Teams vs Durable Teams 🎽
How to understand which is best for your organization
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Within each company, there are groups of people who are more likely to work together than others.
This is usually because of one of two reasons (or both):
They have similar skills: they check their respective work, find solutions and develop practices.
They work on the same project: they do different things, but they all contribute to a same output, so they need to coordinate.
Creating teams means defining processes that make it easier for these people to interact on a regular basis. So you want to create teams around people that work together the most often.
There exists a large body of literature on how to organize teams — based on skills (functions), projects (squads, cross-functional teams) and everything in between (matrices of various kinds).
One angle that is less frequently discussed, though, is time.
How long is the life of a team? How long are these people going to work together?
Based on this coordinate, two main configurations exist:
🎯 Feature Teams — teams assembled to deliver a specific initiative. Will be dismantled afterwards.
🎽 Durable Teams — teams accountable for a long-lived product / business area.
Choosing to go with one or the other (or anything in between) is an important decision to get right — as it has a cascading impact on almost every process: leadership role, reporting structures, career progressions, and so on.
It’s also not trivial as it depends on the stage of your company, its size, and how the business works.
I had the chance of working in both situations and each approach has its own merits, so I will add my own perspective.
Let's compare the two methods by the three coordinates that I believe are the most important:
🍱 Resource Allocation — Flexible vs Fixed
👁️ Strategy & Decision Making — External vs Internal
👑 Ownership — Weak vs Strong