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Losing a Feature as a Leader

Alignment
Internal Communication
Embracing Failures
Prioritization
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

8 December, 2021

Daria Derkach
Daria Derkach

Engineering Manager at Atlassian

Daria Derkach, Engineering Manager at Atlassian, explains the story of one of her features that did not make it to the release phase after her team spent a year working on it.

Developing Without Success

In a company I was working at, top-level management pushed my team to implement a specific feature. Unfortunately, my team was against working on this item, and we felt that it may not turn out to be a success. This happened to be true, as my team worked on this item for a whole year before showing it to the leadership. During our presentation, the team explained how it would work and what dependencies we had on other teams.

After the presentation, leadership decided that our feature required too much change and didn’t want to proceed with the project. Our initial reaction was a disappointment because we spent so much time working on something that was about to go to the trash.

Moving Forward After Failure

Communicating with Team:

First of all, I needed to communicate our results to the team. While it was a challenge for everyone, I wanted to ensure that my team could move past this tragedy successfully. I worried that my team would feel demotivated, or that their work was less important than others. To communicate my concerns about the team, I started to raise concerns about our struggles and demotivation regarding that feature.

On the other hand, it was crucial to understanding leadership’s perspective and why our feature would not be taken into development.

Ensuring Alignment:

I realized that one of the main reasons my team could not successfully develop our item was that we did not have alignment within our organization. Other teams had different priorities, and this item would require work to be done in other teams. When my team was ready to move forward with our tasks, the other teams had other things on their plates, and ours was pushed aside. If we had communicated our initial priorities, then our feature could have been worked on.

Tips for Effective Communication

  • I felt that it was my own mistake in not communicating our needs on time. If my team had communicated with the organization, there might have been a more successful outcome. Communication is the key to success in any organization.
  • After encountering failure, I did not show my discouragement to the team. I wanted my team to stay motivated and not get upset about our failures. My team needed to move on, and I needed to move on too; the problem was in the past and needed to stay there.

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