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.
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.
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
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