In my experience motivated software testers (or any employees) will constantly want to do things better. They will want to challenge themselves. They will have testing books on their desk, they’ll want to discuss testing techniques with their colleagues, and they’ll ask for training and workshops. They will know what’s good and bad about their testing process and will have ideas on how to fix the bad bits. All we need to do is to facilitate change that’s driven by them and encourage them to keep improving.
In one organization where I worked, management decided to engage an external consultancy to evaluate testing and improve efficiency—but it made this decision without first discussing it with the internal test team. The test team members actually did understand their own work environment and the issues with it, and they knew how to make it better. But the result of the management decision was that the internal team members felt undervalued and resentful, and they decided not to go out of their way to help the consultancy organization. The consultancy organization found it more difficult to meet expectations as the task took longer than planned, and the improvements didn’t end up lasting that long.
A few years ago, I caught up with someone whom I’d worked with previously, a lovely gentleman called Kenneth. We’d worked together in a great company that had gone through a restructure. After the restructure we both left, but Kenneth had gone back as a contractor. I asked him how the remaining members of the team were doing. His response is one I’ll never forget because it summed up the situation very well: The team had lost its spirit.
So, how do you actually go about implementing lasting process improvement in software testing? You can’t walk into an organization and implement change without understanding the culture and listening to what people have to say. You need to be prepared to get your hands dirty, get to know the software and the teams involved, perhaps sit in on a project implementation to see how it’s done, assist in a test execution cycle, raise some defects, or see how test reports are prepared before deciding on what the priorities are. You need to be able to wisely select the most appropriate strategies from your toolkit. Mostly it’s about listening, observing, and then engaging others before facilitating change. Every team and every project is unique.
As a manager, you can start appreciating all the people you’ve got in your organization and the particular blend of skills they bring. You can support them in their growth, and you can encourage them to keep learning.
If your ultimate aim is saving money, open a deposit account. If your ultimate aim is creating and deploying quality software in a sustainable manner and retaining good people and getting the best from them, then focus on the people—the benefits will follow.