The Software Testing Draft: Skipping Certain Players and Reforming Others

[article]
Summary:
Bonnie Bailey describes how assembling a great software testing team isn’t just about finding the right players; it’s also about reforming or perhaps weeding out the not-so-great players. Squashing certain negative traits found on the team (or preventing those traits from entering the team in the first place) is vital for everyone’s success.

Assembling a great software testing team isn’t just about finding the right players ; it’s also about reforming or perhaps weeding out the not-so-great players. Squashing certain negative traits found on the team (or preventing those traits from entering the team in the first place) is vital for everyone’s success.

Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh says hiring mistakes cost Zappos over $100 million . “(T)here’s a temptation to just get warm bodies in and hire as quick and fast as possible,” he says. “…What we learned is instead of trying to hire quickly and fire slowly, really, it should be the reverse. We should hire slowly and fire quickly when it’s not the right fit.”

Many people bristle at the idea of excluding anyone in the workplace, but exclusion works magnificently in other settings; the best sports teams have exclusion down to an art. Throw one too many bad pitches and the pitcher, no matter how much the coach or the fans like him, will be replaced on the mound. If NFL players don’t reign in their hot-shot attitudes (think football stars Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss ), the players can be traded or cut, and the fans are happy to never see them again .

In the movie 42, the biographical film about Jackie Robinson, several Dodgers players band together to refuse to play with a black teammate. In a scene that is apparently historically accurate , Dodgers manager Leo Durocher, wearing a bathrobe, wakes his players from their beds and lets them know that Jackie Robinson will be playing if he’s good enough to help the team win, and anyone who doesn’t like it can find somewhere else to play. Three players ask to be traded. The rest is history.

Sometimes what a team needs to succeed is pruning. As a manager, how do you know when you’re at that point with someone on the team?

I was once hired to work with a group that had a couple of testers who were feuding through deadly looks, snide comebacks, and territorial shenanigans. My manager and I started work the same day and dove into helping this team corral their two sets of disparate test cases and get some checks automated. Only, it never seemed like enough work was getting done, and we had to keep repeating instructions. The day one of the testers emailed the other one to say “stop typing so loud” was the day our manager realized that attempting to reform these testers was wasting time and money. The tree was pruned, and the team was able to grow with new hires who had better attitudes.

Other times test teams have players who are impeding work but they can be reformed because they genuinely care about the success of the team; somehow they either got off track or their personalities just lend them to some sort of inefficiency.

One behavior related to personality that managers can address is lack of direction. Some people do good work and have good attitudes but fail to see what needs to be done or could be done. They may continually look to the manager for direction or just wait for direction to come down. Managers can help the team by encouraging members to be self-managing when it comes to their own work and monitoring their own progress. Ask questions that get team members thinking not just about the happy path, but also about what might go wrong in the course of their testing work. Help them think through contingency plans if, for instance, a certain test box goes

About the author

Bonnie Bailey's picture Bonnie Bailey

Bonnie Bailey is a software test engineer for a health care information technology company. Bonnie is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction, including software design, testing and development, disruptive and emerging technologies, business leadership, science, and medicine. She also enjoys writing. Find Bonnie online at bbwriting.com.

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