How to build a successful QA team?

This a guest post from author “Sharath R Bhat”

What do we mean by a great software testing team?

“A team with a star player is a good team, but a team without one is a great
team.” – Author unknown.

The above quote from Author leads us to discussion on great teams and its characteristics. The article stems from experience gained while working for different teams, observation of team members behavior under time pressure coupled with complex nature of project.This holds good for Software Testing team which finds prominence place in a project activities and requires right mix of people for performing these activities.

Why does some software testing team fails and others succeed? Is there any solution for this problem.The answer is “Yes”/”No” – depends on how the team member aligns himself towards common goal of the team not at the cost of suppressing his team members interest but working together with common understanding of problem at hand.
The success also depends on leadership attributes possessed by Test Leads –“Captain of ship”.

The objective of this article is to help software test engineers or any person who believes in team work,to understand characteristics of high performance team and how to cultivate them in their own teams.

Success of team in long run doesn’t depend on individual who is considered “STAR” but does depends on all who form clusters of stars that makes great team.

Characteristics of Great Software Testing Team

Initial stage – Ask yourself following question:

Does your new team member knows the reason he has been selected for the team?

New members of the team are often puzzled about their presence in team.Although you may argue that he/she need not know purpose and just work on task assigned to him/her.This is assumption made by many higher management people.By clearing defining the roles and responsibilities helps individuals to understand the project in bigger context.That includes the relevance of his/her job,skills of individuals that could be contributed towards the projects,share common team goal which was defined earlier.This does bring great commitment towards the work and hence contributes towards its quality.

Ownership:

When project complexity increases in terms of tasks and team size, it would not be possible to keep track of individuals tasks by single leader.Hence the solution to this would be assigning Ownership to individuals. However this virtual leadership often act as a impediment rather than solution if not considered appropriately. Mere appointment of individual as Owner without considering a serious thought of whether he/she could manage their team would not bring desired result.

Individuals acting as owners should have mindset which matches leaders mindset and the pride on their part to act as future leaders. These are people who could make difference by carrying along with them their team members and the same people by showing Indifferent attitudes towards their team will disintegrate the team. The task of owners is not merely restricted to assigning task to team members but to understand task at hand, situation at much broader perspective and bringing common level of understanding among their team members. Support their team member at the time of difficulty of handling task,word of encouragement,correcting their mistakes by not acting as lead but as a peer,acting up on ideas or taking advice for appropriate situation from experienced members would certainly benefit towards shared goal. Collaboration and a solid sense of interdependency in a team will defuse blaming behavior and stimulate opportunities for learning and improvement.

Knowledge of seasoned players in the team

The term-seasoned players indicates the person who has spent considerable amount of time in same project or similar kind of work. They are resources who have vast knowledge about project. By channeling their knowledge in proper way,the entire team could be benefited.These individual should show an act of diligence towards others work rather than arrogance.It is commonly said “Past success breeds arrogance”. They are higher performers who’s absence could be felt in a team but it should be not sole criteria as there are equal chance for others who has similar caliber to act at this position.

Motivation – Key Factor

Motivation is not all about giving speech when members of team are assembled but rather every effort should be made to tailor these speech to address each individual. This means each of team member has unique qualities and unique working style. This task is rather complex than said for Test Lead since it will bring effort on leaders part to sense the team member’s feeling not only to task assigned to members but also on project as whole. Positive attitude of lead will energies team – This is quoted from experience working for one of great test team.If the leader complains about long working hours or insisting the team members to work at schedule which is impossible to meet, your team will reflect your attitude. He/She is true leader who inspite of unreasonable schedule instills the confidence among team members to believe in their abilities and at the same time working at the background on his part to justify his team members effort working on unreasonable schedule but bring an extension to these schedule to make his team members job simple.

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Recognition

Everyone likes to be recognized for his/her work.When an individual is awarded for his/her work,the responsibility of team lead should bring reason for individual recognition in front of others. The team lead decision for these kind of task should be impartial.This does bring great respect for the awarded individual by members in the team. They would be acting on similar grounds and ultimately team benefits from their collective response. Very often that members working for virtual leader often are not recognized since due to zero visibility to the leader of team. It is virtual leader who has to bring on table the accomplishment,contribution done by team member towards their task.This indicates that virtual leader is future leader who does take care of members of his team and well received by members of his team to whom they always wanted to be associated in future.

One-One basis Meeting

It is often seen that roles and responsibilities for the members are defined and assessment is done at the end of project.Agreed that it is formal process.But informal talk like One – One basis adds to this formal process as well. These informal meeting should address issues at present whom members wont feel like conveying during group meeting, future opportunities for members, identifying future leaders/owners of the team and equally acting on issues at hand after feedback from team members.Timely and appropriately delivered feedback can make the difference between a team that hides mistakes and a team that sees mistakes as opportunities. The responsibility for poor performance is usually a function of the team structure rather than individual incompetence; yet, it is individuals who are sent to training programs for fixing. If team members feel like they are pitted against one another to compete for rewards and recognition, they will withhold information that might be useful to the greater team. When a team has problems, the effective team leader will focus on the team’s structure before focusing on individuals.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George Patton

Conclusion

There are plenty of things to be considered while building successful team.The key words – Unity,Trust,Respect for others opinion and acting without fear are ingredients for great test team,in general for any successful team. After reading this article look at your team and question yourself “Are you working in great test team” or “ Will you make every effort to build great test team”.Then don’t wait,try next second to build “Great Software Testing Team”.

“Coming together is a beginning, Keeping together is progress, Working together is success”. – Henry Ford

Over To You!

What do you think from your experience, What are your characteristics for building a successful QA team?

About author: Sharath R. Bhat is a Software Test Engineer at Torry Harris Business solutions, Bangalore and has more than three years experience in software Testing. An ISEB/ISTQB Certified Test Engineer and worked in Telecom, Finance and Healthcare domains. Areas on technical expertise include testing Web Applications, Client-Server, Data Warehousing and Middleware applications built using “Kabira”.

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57 comments ↓

#1 Prashant on 01.16.08 at 12:09 pm

There is no doubt that test lead or test manager should create team spirit. But it’s individual’s contribution to make successful team.
i suggest some tips for team spirit
1) take responsibility of your work
2) Don’t blame other
3) large bug count does not mean you are superior than others.
4) Make developer agree with you by explaining his mistakes (if any) clearly and calmly.
theae are small small tips for good team spirit.
This is my experience.

#2 Harish on 01.17.08 at 4:48 am

Absolutely correct Mr.Sharath,there is no success without One Great Team.
As per my experience following are some of the points for the Success of the Team as a QA:-
1. First of all QA Team lead should take the initiative for the meetings if that is not happened time to time regarding the projects.
2. QA should explain the Bugs to the developer with a friendly so that he can agree his fault in the project.
3. Quality is never an accident it should always the result of intellegent effort.There must be a will to produce superior things.
4.For the QA remeber that high standard testing and always ensuring that the quality standards are not compromised.

#3 Mahesh V on 01.17.08 at 6:01 am

Good job Sharath, Thnx for giving such a nice article …This article gives a glimpse about building a successful team.

#4 Sukesh R(San Francisco, CA) Cognizant on 01.18.08 at 8:26 am

Very well explained, but per my experience what I feel is:
- Test Lead should always follow the process and imply that all the team members should follow the same, following process will definetly improve the quality of product.
- Team members should interact with development team and understand what they have built and also study the requirements and perform the test
- Whatever team members test, they should test completely.

These are some of the things which came to my mind.

Sukesh
Cognizant-blr

#5 Rakesh on 01.19.08 at 5:53 am

Hey.. thats a very good article Sharath. Very well written.

#6 Meenal on 01.20.08 at 9:39 am

It’s individuals responsibility to build a quality team.
Leader can play best role in building such good QA team.

#7 Roshan Gunavant on 01.21.08 at 4:23 am

Good article Sharath.
(i) A Team Lead’s vision should be the teams mission. The Lead takes some very important initiatives and the team members take the responsibility of implementing those initiatives and suggesting improvements.
(i) Innovation can the greatest motivating factor. For this to happen very few understand that building a comfort factor within the team is vital. If the team members have doubts in carrying out their tasks, they certainly cannot come up with new ideas.
(iii) There are very few experienced team members who make themselves useful for new comers. As you said arrogance takes over. Their work ethics always remain questionable and sometimes the team is well if such members are got rid off.
(iv) Finally transparency – The goal of the company should be aligned with every individual working for the company. If there is no clarity of direction towards which the team is progressing, every one need to stand up and voice their opinion.
As far as the responsibilities of QA team its perplexive. The very existence of QA teams can be questioned. Why do we need developers who cannot think out of the box, or who cannot think from an application user point of view. We are building a QA team to overlook the developers work and reduce the escape defects which to my understanding should not escape from a successful developer who can visualize the utility of the application he/she develops

#8 Biju on 01.21.08 at 5:08 am

Sharath,Good article… I beleive Motivated employee is the key to success and motivation is the responsibilty of the organisation

#9 abhaya on 01.21.08 at 9:27 pm

Good Article Sharath !
Have a question … Did anyone go thru this phase..
How does a Lead act in situations like when no one from the team really shows interest towards work except himself or does not want to take up responsibility. Why would they have to be repeatedly asked for routine work …what makes them to take up initiatives on their own to do something instead of being said for everything.. In such instances how what would you suggest .. or How you would have handled.
I Still Like My Team :-) I know I am cribbing…but this is for me and inturn for the Team.

#10 Great One on 01.22.08 at 5:23 am

I strongly agree with you about Test Lead or Test manager being the driving force for the scuuess of the team/project. They should be able to understand the complete process, implement and most importantly engage TEAM. This is the Fundamental.

Also it is the responsibility of the Team members to align themselves with Project goals, Team goals.

The article has come out very well.Cheers!!

Venkat

#11 udhayakumar on 01.23.08 at 11:54 am

This is good article,thanks for giving nice one

#12 sharath on 01.23.08 at 6:49 pm

Reply to “abhaya” .(my thoughts)
Well,these are delicate issues and should be handled with care.

First,lets understand why there is indifference in team members attitude,it could be company’s policies,working environment,lack of support,not recognised for their work,people not showing importance to their work(happens in some workplace),they dont know what future holds for them in term of opportunities,career growth.I’m sure once we come to know any of the above are root cause of problem,we can address them.Each individual has own priority and problem and have to be addressed on individual basis.

Note of appreciation for smallest work done by them,bring their visibility to rest of team including development team.talk to individual as peer- what holds them back when they have potential to do so,.Encourage them to be part of important task – some task of team lead so that you can concentrate on much bigger aspect,tell them to express their opinion,right or wrong doesn’t matter,ask their opinion to build effective strategy to complete any task.Give them responsibility of leader or owner,I’m sure there wil be individuals in your team who will come forward.Monitor them at higher level but i have oberserved,if people are forced to do work,although they do work under fear but they won’t be enjoying work nor they will give their 100% effort on work.Not good for long time.
If team lead thinks about his team members Goodness ,believe me no task will be boring for them,they would go extra mile to achieve,love to work inturn do reward them by promoting them to next level and also you will be promoted to your next level,people will respect for your nature.I have evidence for working in such team.These are some of my views.
Please let me know if things work in your favour.

#13 Yathindra on 01.24.08 at 10:32 am

Hay Sharath you have written a very good article.

#14 abhaya on 01.24.08 at 9:27 pm

Thanks Sharath for the advise…. Let me see how much I can carry from here… I am sure there is some thing inherent which has to be brought out … I will work on ur suggestion and see If I can get some good … “All’s well that ends well”:-)

#15 salim on 01.25.08 at 5:19 am

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#16 Software testing questions and answers part 2 on 02.07.08 at 12:20 pm

[...] most important task of assigning and monitoring the project work. Your main responsibility is to build a team to achieve your project goals. You need to focus on handling the challenges in your project so that [...]

#17 poonam on 02.27.08 at 6:08 am

If Team Lead & team members are doing there job properly & on time. They can find more bugs & close them. Some times they don’t get proper cooperation form developers still testers are putting there efforts as much as possible. still management is not happy with there work. At this situation what to do?

#18 sharath on 03.01.08 at 3:21 pm

Reply to ” poonam ”
Team members are doing their job properly & on time – this shows dedication and committment towards work.Thats really good!. Now lets come to the situation
“still management is not happy with there work: – I think efforts are channelise properly but I guess its problem with visibility of team’s work.However we can try from our side to correct this but if the management
has an attitude of going against our work n effort,nothing can be done.
Anyways,here is some of things we can try out.
Team Lead can play key role since he/she will be one who attend all majority of management meetings/any Lead meeting.Bring out the concern of his team,statistics like defects found,defect which had impact on project- delivery if not found by
testing team,specializationof team members – domain knowledge and technicall skills.Having said this,team members should speak during meeting for efforts in very diplomatically,put point across in right way,this is art but can be Practiced.Collobration with developement team is also key part of this strategy since they could be key contributors who will make management realise that testing team did made an effort and it is their effort combined with developement team for success of project.I want to conclude that its visibility of work that is lagging behind.Please let me know if this strategy works in your case.

#19 siva kumar on 04.01.08 at 1:58 pm

please send tead lead roles and responsibilities and
how to motivate team members by test lead

#20 siva kumar on 04.01.08 at 1:59 pm

roles and responsibilities of test lead and how to motivate the team members by test lead

#21 Vishal Chhaperia on 04.02.08 at 6:05 am

Anyone from Kolkata working on any of the automation tool Pls reply via mail : bishalchaperia@gmail.com

#22 Chanchal on 04.21.08 at 9:01 am

Hi Vijay,

I have completed B.E. in computers & also certification in
software testing from speartech solution.
Presently, I am working as a software tester.
I want to explore myself in software testing field So, Can you give me advice it????

#23 Chanchal on 04.21.08 at 9:03 am

Means advice about programming languages I shoud do or any certfication.

#24 How to ask for promotion and salary raise in this appraisal on 04.24.08 at 11:28 am

[...] Team motivation skill [...]

#25 Ammu on 05.16.08 at 4:38 pm

Asking Questions to the TL or Manager is wrong i guess,YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SAY YES to them :(

If you ask them question they think your attitude is bad, In this case what can we do ?

Some work is assinged to you after office hours , if you say no you are wrong ! So…… how do you can be a good team player ?

#26 Abhaya on 05.19.08 at 9:47 pm

My way of looking in to it….I do not think so asking questions is got anything to do with the attitude. They should be happy if you are coming out with questions. Atleast they would know whether you are in the right direction or not. Keep asking questions whenever you are struck with something. Afterall TL or managers are there to help you out with your work.
Better to say no in a nice way rather than saying it on the face… u dont know how the other person is going to take it… not unless u understand him/her better.
For ur after office work…Once in a while its ok if not anticipated …but not always…And u are still doing what is asked for but may be the next day… so can still say yes but in other time frame… which shud be accepted by Lead who understands …

Again TL is not the only one in the team who shud be happy with you… You are working with the other team members and can build a good rapport with them and can still be a good team Player :-)

#27 Sonali on 07.07.08 at 1:10 pm

Testing : Does it mean testing the flow of Application.
No, Testing brings new challenges to breaking functionality and find out the possible evidences thats really need skill.
To lead a Test Team….
Always be Responisible
Dont blame anybody
dont figurout anybody
Always motivate the team
Always discuss new technologies
Try Group/Team discussion often

#28 Abhishek Kumar on 08.11.08 at 1:12 pm

Hi friends

Please share your Experience with me

What is the resposibilities of the Test Lead & Test Manager please give difference between both’s resposibilities.

#29 H Raut on 09.26.08 at 10:42 am

As a Test Lead/Test Manager you are the vital contact point for client, Management and Testing Team. Here you have responsibilities towards all of them. You need to understand client’s expectations from testing team. Plan testing activities (Prepare Test Plan, Test Startegy, Anticipate Risks and plan for mitigation, Selection of testing tools etc.). Create test environment. Preapre testing schedules and monitor it. Test case design, Test case review and if needed test execution. Defect review, root cause analysis. Track and communicate testing progress to client on regular basis.
Estimate test efforts and plan for resources. Mentoring of new resources for testing, project and domain knowledge. Guide and motivate team members. Maintain positive team spirit. resolve grievences, conflicts. Escalate issues to management to take timely decisions.
Keep the management informed about major milestones and its status.
Implement and maintain testing processes in project.

#30 Sabahul Hassan on 01.06.09 at 1:31 pm

Hey Sharath,
I read this article thoroughly. I am a software engineer. This article is not only great for Quality people but at some points i found it very helping for developers also. I am sorry I am stealing some points for my presentation if you don’t mind :).

Thank you once again for this article.

Best Regards,
Sabahul Hassan

#31 kiran on 08.13.09 at 8:31 am

hi, Nice article

#32 Gopal on 12.01.09 at 5:04 pm

Hi,

Can some one please explain me what are the roles for successful QA team lead

#33 Senthil on 12.21.09 at 8:39 am

Awesome, but it will workout only the Org, which is in ImPartial.

#34 Kiran on 03.23.10 at 12:18 pm

I think the attitude depends on organization. In small companies the attitude is prevalent that owner of company is the Lord and all managers treat people like slaves. The only thing that you can do Ammmu is to leave the place and join some good company. Companies with this kind of culture usually shut down in a couple of years anyway.

#35 Jomon Joseph on 04.13.10 at 6:24 am

Good article…and you have explained it in a simple way. Great effort.

#36 Vinay on 04.18.10 at 3:26 am

What to do when Team Lead always critise you,not ready to hear u?

#37 Ratan on 05.13.10 at 7:06 pm

Hi Sharath,

I really appreciate your efforts and your urge to share your knowledge among others. This is also one of the important aspect of Team leader..should be noted.

Keep it up..

#38 Balaji on 07.06.10 at 12:22 pm

Hi Sharath,
I read your suggestions and its really useful tips.

Thanks a lot!

Balaji

#39 Vinaya on 07.28.10 at 12:02 pm

Hi Sharath,
I read your articles.They are very helpful for Testers who are new to IT field.

Keep it up…

#40 sharath on 08.11.10 at 1:00 pm

Reply for Vinay – “What to do when Team Lead always critise you,not ready to hear u?”

I would suggest find out reason for his remarks – does it fall under genuine critize factor or wanted to show his authority.

The working pattern of individual is always different – micro management, critize people, encourage the people to learn by mistakes,Ignore their work

Do investigate the reason –
His/her ideas might be valid sometimes since he has more experience in this field.For this case,you don’t have anything to lose and in fact
gained knowledge which can be useful for your future when you become team lead.

Before working on any kind of assignment, do ask him his expectations from you – specific,clear & concise.
Example:
If you are given test case documentation, prepare test case for a scenario & get his approval that you will proceed with similar lines on test case.

Prepare one test case for each of use case,review with him & later you can proceed with adding more test case on similar line’s.

Once you have gained his confidence to work in similar fashion as he does, he will stop critizing & you will enjoy your work.

The above are general views & suggestions can be provided based on specific circumstance.
If you are comfortable to share your specific Issues in this forum with an example without specificying name after permission from moderator, all members will be glad to give you their suggestions.

#41 Meg on 10.11.10 at 7:53 pm

How can you integrate two QA team into one team?

#42 Paavan on 05.04.11 at 11:36 am

What about accountability?

#43 suresh reddy on 07.19.11 at 6:55 am

Me looking software testing job, me having three exp and right now me on contract job .. so looking another permanent job.

#44 suresh reddy on 07.19.11 at 6:59 am

so please help me out , 8971643586.

#45 suresh reddy on 07.19.11 at 7:03 am

its very urgent to get job, bcoz my contract with this company getting over so please any one there to help me to get permanent job.

#46 suresh reddy on 07.19.11 at 7:07 am

i did very good performance here den too no use Bcoz here lack of work,they finding some mistakes to throw out me… help me what can i do………..

#47 SATHYA on 09.22.11 at 12:51 pm

what do you think feel the skill required to the successful in software industry and list the reason and why do you think you can be successful in a software engineer

#48 SATHYA on 09.22.11 at 12:54 pm

what do you think feel the skill required to the successful in software industry and list the reason and why do you think you can be successful in a software engineer…please help me???,,,,,,,,

#49 Vamshi on 10.12.11 at 4:53 am

Hi Suresh Reddy,
I have worked with one company towards testing. As per my knowledge, every person requires his technical skills to be shown at the right time. But at the same time you need to be very careful at your attitude and way of talking to each other in your team. But some things might be happened like if you do good also, they may not look at you because of your interaction with each other. So I suggest you to communicate with your team lead or whoever the person have been forcing you to be in sad mood. Just have a personal discussion with him and ask him suggestions in a positive way…..

#50 Raj on 11.01.11 at 6:45 pm

To Sharath:

hi , my friend’s company needed an QA lead, so he suggested me to became QA lead. I did an QA course and now i am going to join the company as QA lead.
Now i need to knw what are the responsibilities of an QA lead day to day life.. plz explain…

#51 pankaj raut(mumbai) on 02.22.12 at 9:55 pm

thanx mr sharath for the very good article.

#52 jamsheer on 04.20.12 at 4:03 pm

good for the preparation

#53 yuan on 05.11.12 at 9:57 am

in fact, I didn’t find what’s the reletionship to “successful QA Team”,
the essentials listed here are common to” successful Team” not about “QA”.

#54 Sambies on 07.22.12 at 4:08 am

Very good article but not company share worthy due to bad use of grammer. Very unfortunate.

#55 Nice Work on 08.03.12 at 9:38 am

Nice Work

#56 Nice Work on 08.03.12 at 9:41 am

We also had a great team!!!

#57 Nice Work on 08.03.12 at 9:41 am

We also have a great team!!!