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 a 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 a project.This holds good for Software Testing team which finds prominence place in project activities and requires the 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 the common goal of the team, not at the cost of suppressing his team members interest but working together with the common understanding of the 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 teamwork, to understand characteristics of the high-performance team and how to cultivate them in their own teams.

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

What You Will Learn:

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 the team.Although you may argue that he/she need not know the purpose and just work on the task assigned to him/her.This is an 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 a single leader.Hence the solution to this would be assigning Ownership to individuals. However, this virtual leadership often act as an impediment rather than a solution if not considered appropriate. Mere appointment of an individual as Owner without considering a serious thought of whether he/she could manage their team would not bring the desired result.

Individuals acting as owners should have a 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 the task to team members but to understand the task at hand, a situation at much broader perspective and bringing a common level of understanding among their team members. Support their team member at the time of difficulty of handling the task, word of encouragement, correcting their mistakes by not acting as lead but as a peer, acting upon ideas or taking advice for the appropriate situation from experienced members would certainly benefit towards the 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 indicate the person who has spent a considerable amount of time in the same project or similar kind of work. They are resources who have vast knowledge about the project. By channeling their knowledge in the proper way, the entire team could be benefited.This individual should show an act of diligence towards others works rather than arrogance.It is commonly said, “Past success breeds arrogance”. They are higher performers who’re absence could be felt in a team but it should be not sole criteria as there is equal chance for others who have similar caliber to act at this position.



Motivation – Key Factor

Motivation is not all about giving a speech when members of the team are assembled but rather every effort should be made to tailor this 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 the task assigned to members but also on the project as the whole. The positive attitude of lead will energies team – This is quoted from experience working for one of a great test team.If the leader complains about long working hours or insisting the team members to work with a schedule which is impossible to meet, your team will reflect your attitude. He/She is a true leader who in spite of unreasonable schedule instills the confidence among team members to believe in their abilities and at the same time working in the background on his part to justify his team members effort working on unreasonable schedule but bring an extension to this schedule to make his team members job simply.

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 this kind of task should be impartial.This does bring great respect for the awarded individual by members of the team. They would be acting on similar grounds and ultimately team benefits from their collective response. Very often that members working for a virtual leader often are not recognized since due to zero visibility to the leader of the team. It is a virtual leader who has to bring on a table the accomplishment, contribution done by team member towards their task.This indicates that virtual leader is the 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 the project.Agreed that it is a formal process.But informal talks like One – One basis adds to this formal process as well. These informal meeting should address issues at present whom members won’t feel like conveying during the 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 the successful team.The key words – Unity, Trust, Respect for others opinion and acting without fear are ingredients for the 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 the 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”.

Great software testing articles in your inbox! Just click here to get the articles via email.