Seeing QA's as allies - The Lean-Agile Way

August 29, 2006 — Posted by Jim Trott

Listen to the podcastSeeing QA's as allies

Good QA people are very valuable. Whether they are working in traditional or agile environments, they bring to bear many of the same tools and skills. So, what is special about working on a Lean-Agile team? How should QA's see themselves as part of the team? And how should management see QA?

My neighbor told me a story of two QA guys who worked at his software company. They had received great performance reviews for creating a good testing culture and a great process. Then, they were transferred to another department where testing was informal and developers were managed more by fear. These QA's continued to do their job, testing, capturing bugs, offering suggestions, looking for ways to partner. But after their first year, they were trashed in their performance review and threatened with dismissal for poor team spirit! What made the difference? Neither group was particularly agile. But management in the first group saw QA as an ally while in the second group, they saw QA as a threat.

Lean-Agile software development emphasizes the spirit of the first group: testing is an ally.

In the last podcast, Alan Shalloway talked about testing within Lean-Agile. Now, we are going to dive a little deeper.

  • How does lean and agile inform the QA practice?
  • What are some of the skills you should know?
  • Why do we emphasize so strongly the importance of writing acceptance tests up front before any code is created?

Lean sets a larger context for QA. Lean says that everyone has two responsibilities:

  • Run the business
  • Improve the business

Thus, lean teaches that you always want to pay attention to process. Follow the process. When something breaks, find root cause, improve the process, and then go. It requires discipline to want to improve. That is how you improve the process.

In Lean-Agile Software Development, this is done by a relentless commitment to testing. Always write tests before you write code. This is part of the discipline and the skill that is required to be successful in Lean-Agile. Lean gives everyone - including management - a framework for understand testing's role and actively encouraging it and creating compensation systems that help it. Lean encourages and indeed requires the teaming of developers and testers to work together to deliver quality and value to customers.

By the way, those two testers? My neighbor, their former manager, intervened for them all the way up to the division Vice-President. Their reviews - and compensation - were adjusted. One stayed with the company. The other left. There is a great demand for good testers.

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About the author | Jim Trott

Jim Trott is a senior consultant for Net Objectives. He has used object-oriented and pattern-based analysis techniques throughout his 20 year career in knowledge management and knowledge engineering. He is the co-author of Design Patterns Explained: A New Perspective on Object-Oriented Design, Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility, and the Lean-Agile Pocket Guide for Scrum Teams.



        

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Al Shalloway
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Cory Foy
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