The Best Software Tester in the World?

Attention to detailIf you ask ten testers to each test something, you will typically see a varied amount of defects detected. This will still be the case if all of the testers had exactly the same experience and testing knowledge. This is quite often down to how focused the tester is when looking at something (attention to detail). While at first glance something may look good, but on closer inspection, defects can be seen. Attention to detail is what makes a great tester stand out from a good tester.DiplomacyDuring the day-to-day tasks a software tester has, there will invariably come a time when the tester needs to converse with others, more often than not with software developers. When speaking to a developer about a bug they found, the tester must always bear in mind, that they are essentially finding fault in that developer’s work. Diplomacy skills are a key asset to any software tester as they are paramount in building and maintaining a healthy working relationship with the development team. A poor relationship between software testers and developers can negatively impact any software development and place unnecessary risk on the project.

Quick LearnerSoftware testers that work for outsourced QA companies will often find themselves switching between a huge variety of projects, which today may include web, mobile, smart products and wearable tech. Being able to ramp-up on a product saves precious time during a development life-cycle. Sometimes software will need to be tested that has no documentation. Therefore, the software tester needs to be able to explore the software and quickly extract the information they need. This key information may be used to create a test plan, a set of test cases or QA estimate.PassionateIt is easy to spot software testers that are passionate about the software they are testing. They typically find more defects and they show enthusiasm during meetings for not only the product they are testing, but also for software testing in general. Clients are much more likely to re-hire software testers that are enthusiastic about their product. On the flip side, software testers that show no enthusiasm quickly stand-out and it invariably shows in the quality of their QA work.Business OrientedA great software tester can see the product as whole and take on the mind-set of the intended audience. This skill is extremely useful in reporting issues that may otherwise be found by the end users after the product’s release. Another aspect of business orientation is the ability to understand why a certain functionality is being introduced, and applying this knowledge to their testing. This information can enhance the testing being performed and provide a richer set of results. A tester should also be able to appreciate that deadlines need to be met(and as is often the case) may result in a reduced amount of time for QA. Being flexible and understanding of the business impact of the deadline of a release is extremely important to the relationship of the test team with the rest of the product stakeholders.

ConclusionThere is no specific criteria as to what makes the best software in the world, as each company, or project may have a different requirement or goal as to what they want the software tester to achieve. Our QA team’s experience of testing a wide variety of software products for clients all over the globe has given us great insight as to what kind of testers we needed to make those projects a success.

Create, Build a Winning Team

There are certain points that every team manager and team player must stick to for the greater interest of the team as a whole.

This makes a team stand out and perform to impeccably.

Good leader & a great manager

“Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.”

~ Warren G Bennis.

Leadership is all about creating a compelling vision of the future, translating and communicating that vision, and helping people understand and abide by it.

Managers, on the other hand, are responsible for ensuring that the vision is implemented efficiently and successfully.

A team leader has to have a right mix of both these skills.

Delegation is the key word

No matter how skilled you are, there’s only so much you can achieve working on your own. With a team behind you, you can achieve so much more: that’s why it’s so important that you delegate effectively.

Being absolutely aware of each member’s ability to deliver and rightly delegating work for effective deliverance.

Motivation is another benchmark

The challenge as a team leader is find effective ways to keep a team motivated.

Good communications with every team member, being the perfect front man for the team are few things that can keep any team motivated.

Remember a de-motivated team can do nothing, even if each single team member may have loads of prospect.

Handling team members

It requires special skills to communicate effectively with each and every team member with varied kinds of temperament and character types.

There are various kinds of people, some are a wee bit aggressive, some too passive, some are overly enthusiastic yet un-realistic and some think they are catalysts of change.

With all these types the team has to perform to perfection and deliver excellence. It is the skill of the manager/leader to communicate the team goal effectively to each member and ensure that the team functions together.

Being their speaker

The team leader is the front man of the team and he/she has to effectively co ordinate with the stakeholders to ensure what they want.

The better you communicate with your stakeholders, the easier it will be for you to translate the team goal to your team.

It is also your responsibility to safeguard your team from excess pressure and other external challenges.

A ready reckoner for every team leader

  • Be a perfect leader and a manager of your team
  • Create the right mix of being the leader and the person who manages the show
  • Delegate work effectively
  • Keep every member motivated, the team functions better
  • Learn the art of handling different kinds of team members
  • Be their speaker, mentor and coach too

The spirited team player

The leader/manager has the responsibility of a leading and managing the team but the onus of performance lies with each and every member of the team.

Every institution prefers to employ candidates who are good and effective team players. Now what makes one a good team player. The following skills sets will enable you to be the perfectly spirited and performing team player.

Reliability and flexibility

As a team player you must be flexible in your ability to function and deliver as wanted by your team leader in the greater interest of the team as a whole.

Your ability to deliver will ties you in a bond of reliability with other team members and the team leader.

Be a part of the solution not the problem

A good team player has the ability to perform under stressful conditions. Rather than pondering over the problem, you will be marked higher if you can act together with the team and troubleshoot to a solution. Evert team leader prefers team players who have the ability to find solutions.

Treat others respectfully and create a harmony in the team

It is an absolute no for team player to be doing things that may hurt the larger interest of the team or threaten to create a disharmony in the team. A good team member reflects the ability to bond with the team and perform in harmony. Respecting others and being disciplined is also another essential quality of a team player.

An active listener

A good listener is always preferred over a poor listener. If you do not listen with awareness you will not be able to receive what your team leader has to instruct. If that happens then the functionality of the team as a whole suffers. Being an ardent listener solves lots of problems and saves time too.

Try to communicate with ease

Every team needs people who speak up and express their thoughts and ideas clearly, directly, honestly, and with respect for others and for the work of the team.

That’s what it means to communicate constructively. Such a team member does not refrain from making a point but makes it in the most respectful and amicable manner possible – in a positive, confident manner.

The ‘Make it happen’ type

Good team players are essentially active participants. They come well prepared for team meetings, listen, and speak up in discussions.

They’re fully engaged in the work of the team and do not sit passively on the sidelines. This keeps the player and other members of the team motivated too. He/she is a valuable asset for any team.

Types of team members

1-The perennial yes man

A person who always agree to everything which is proposed or discussed. A person who will agree to opposite sides of the agreements. He/she is either not assertive, avoids conflict or wants to be friends with everybody.

His popular response ” Good idea – Excellent plan”

  • How to manage these: Use them to kick start the meeting as they are excellent as cheer leaders and can draw the shy members to contribute.

Types of team members

2-The Negative Person

It doesn’t matter how many hard facts are behind a suggestion, this pessimist will be negative about an idea. The good news is that this team member does usually come up with good alternatives. He/she most used phrase is ‘This won’t work’

  • How to manage these: Treat this team member with tolerance and patience and ask them give the logic for their belief. Also do not ask them to give their opinion first.

Types of team members

3. The Workhorse

The workhorse is the person who could end up doing all the real work, once he reveals himself to other team members. As a team manager, you’ll have to keep an eye out for this possibility. There is a danger (if a workhorse is detected) that the team will pile all the work onto the workhorse, and the workhorse will burn out.

Usual response from a workhorse: “I’ll do that if you don’t have time.”

  • How to manage a workhorse: If you notice somebody volunteering to take on the work of his fellow team members a little too much, you should step in. By allowing the team to take advantage of one member, you will run the risk of letting the entire team fall apart. In the end, nothing will be accomplished.

Types of Team Members

4. The Flash-in-the-Pan

A flash-in-the-pan starts out full of energy and optimism at the team’s initial meeting, then disappears from sight. He volunteers a lot–then doesn’t follow through.

Popular response from the flash-in-the-pan: (On the first day) ” I would like to take responsibility for these”

  • How to manage a flash-in-the-pan: The flash-in-the-pan volunteers and is very enthusiastic the first day or initially but disappears after making male excuses. Should never be trusted with the critical roles. Best used for back support roles. To avoid this, you should keep an eye out for somebody who volunteers for too many roles on the first day. Make sure the job assignments are equitable and manageable.

Follow these to be a valuable team player

  • Be flexible when it comes to team affairs and exhibit traits so others can rely on you
  • Do not be the mess-maker, be the solution provider
  • Treat others with respect and be in your best behaviour
  • Do not create disharmony in team affairs, do not try to be different without a cause
  • Be an active listener
  • Communicate with confidence and with ease.
  • Be an active participant in all team affairs

Good leaders and good players make a good team

Just like you need good team leaders/managers for every team to perform, you must have effective team players who stick to the rules and perform top perfection. Only then can you have a team that keeps delivering excellence every day. The above mentioned guideline will enable team leaders to be great frontend of their team and team players will be able to function in perfect harmony

Seven Team Development Ideas for Team Leaders

There are some foundational elements involved in supporting and growing a team to its potential. Unless these elements are present and fostered by the team leader, the team will not be motivated to accomplish its objectives. Furthermore, it will also be stunted in its growth causing it to continually underperform. I therefore want to share with you 7 key elements that need to be attended to on a continual basis in order to create a high performing team. I also want to give you some simple approaches to addressing and improving these elements.

Commitment level

Often leaders are too afraid to be up front about the need for team commitment. Yet in today’s environment people are looking for something to commit to. Individuals are looking to belong to something bigger than they are, which is worthy of their attention. Therefore team leaders need to share their commitment expectations and draw a picture of what commitment can do for individuals who commit to a team. Discussions need to be conducted on what behaviours the members feel would be appropriate for successful synergy and productive outcomes.

Some workshop ideas would be to discuss what teamwork looks like for this particular team. What behaviours do they see need to be consistent in order to work well together and to accomplish team objectives? If each member can be given a sheet of paper to write down a list of behaviours and then asked to share in the group. It brings a deeper sense of clarity and accountability to the group about all the unspoken expectations that exist. It can also be helpful to get them to list the unacceptable behaviours for the team. What should not be tolerated?

Be ready if issues arise from this because of existing behaviours that may be currently tolerated by some. If defensive behaviours begin to arise from such a transparent discussion, simply label it. “I’m sensing defensiveness arising in our discussion – I am just wondering if we see it as important to be able to have these types of discussions and not to get caught up in emotional reactiveness? I personally think this is important for high quality teams in order to deal with tough issues. What does everybody else think?”

Clear individual and team values defined

It is astounding how many times people work in teams having individual values that conflict with team values. Much of the time, initially such conflict occurs without awareness from other team members, until there is a collision of perspectives. Hence, it is important for team members to know each other and to respect different ways of viewing things. There are great online assessment tools that can aid team leaders in assisting team members to grow in this process. Each team member can privately clarify what their own values are and how that affects their behavior and each team member also receives an aggregate score of what the team thinks of the organization. For a team to be most effective value conflicts should be minimised, then it will bring a greater natural commitment from individuals to the objectives of the team and to each other.

Some workshop ideas to foster discussions on team values revolve around getting individuals to share what is most important for them in a team. You could use a set of cards with each having a team value on it (eg. focus, challenge, vision, commitment, loyalty, unity, co-operation, trust, diversity, respect, organisation, outcomes, etc…) This works well, I spread them out and ask members to choose one or two that are the most important values for team success. I then get them to go around the room and share what they chose and why they thought it was important. It is not rocket science, but it sure deepens team member awareness.

Oft-times people can add significant weight to their particular choice through sharing from experience. This can heighten the impact of how important this is to them. This is an opportunity to ask, “Is this the type of values we want to foster in our team?” If so, why – what will it do for us? After everyone has shared their perspective, you can also point out to the team how different perspectives are helpful in aiding us not to miss important areas for team success.

Team purpose

Every organisation can benefit from being clear on its purpose. There is where a clear mission statement can be helpful. It is an effective means of getting people on the same page and being of one purpose. However, the mission statement itself is not that important, it is the journey to the statement that is most important. When facilitated well, organisational members are able to contribute to the process and adjust their sense of purpose to the organisation.

Hence team leaders need to learn to take their team members on such a journey. It doesn’t need to happen in one session. But the journey is well worth taking. Furthermore, if new members are continually joining the team there needs to be time set aside to revisit the mission statement and discuss the ongoing journey to contribute to and discover the higher purpose of the team.

A team exercise that can be helpful in this endeavour is to start a discussion on the priorities of the team. “What are our key priorities?” Once clarified, discuss how the priorities work toward achieving the mission of the team / organisation.

Clear Measurable Goals and Action-steps

It might seem obvious, but how many teams and team members do not take the time to sit down and write out their goals? And how many do not know how to, nor have ever been trained in how to develop their goals? Written goals help maintain a certain amount of accountability to team outcomes by each member of the team. Written goals stamp out the human capacity to rationalize mediocre efforts into successes. A written goal cannot be argued with when a review process is undertaken. Written goals formed within the larger purpose, aid Leaders in the celebration of milestones, engendering an atmosphere of success.

Just remember that a goal is a picture of the final result. A major responsibility of team leaders is to keep team members reminded of the Higher Purpose in each goal. A dynamic team cannot exist unless there is a common task. When teams work together in this process, they work together to remove obstacles and develop synergistic strategies.

One helpful exercise is to use a whiteboard and divide it into quadrants. Give them headings 1. Vision (3 year perspective), 2. Goals (1 year), 3. Projects (90 day) and 4. Action-steps (weekly actions). Under heading one, get people to imagine they are now three years into the future and everything has gone perfectly to plan – “What does it look like?” In the second quadrant, with this picture in mind, what goals need to be set for this year? What needs to happen and by when? In the third quadrant, discuss what 90 day projects need to be focused upon and prioritised in order to see the annual goals achieved. In the fourth quadrant nail down what specific actions need to be taken this week in order to see the team’s projects completed on time?

Remember the process is one that is to engender full support from all team members. Make sure you get someone to write out the results from the workshop and post them prominently for the team to be reminded. Goals and action-steps that have been developed together and are written and clear are great supporters for quality accountability, taking pressure off of the team leader.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) development of team members

Let me just simplify this for a minute by saying EI involves two key elements. Firstly, it is the emotional growth of individuals where they are more self-aware of their reactive patterns (triggers) and of the reactive patterns of their team members. Secondly, it is using this newfound knowledge to channel their emotions into more empowering modes of operation where the team is all the better for the experience. I like to contrast the terms, “React” versus “Respond.” When team members can learn not to fly off the handle because they have learned to control their emotions, everyone wins.

Sometimes it seems impossible to improve the area of emotional intelligence in a team, but the key is to recognise it as being in the sphere of continuous improvement. You are unlikely to drastically transform team members’ EI levels within a short period of time. I have found that an assessment of individual team members coupled with some training on this topic is invaluable for improvement. Through training together the team receives a common language to discuss this phenomenon. Furthermore, if team members are willing to be vulnerable, opportunities will arise for feedback sessions to discuss ways to improve.

If you want to have a high performing team, then there is no shortcutting in this area. Just make sure you spell out the benefits that will occur for each team member if they put the time into improving in this area. You could mention the positive outcomes they should expect to receive such as, less stress, less conflict, greater unity, higher acceptance of diversity, appreciating team members working in their areas of strength, more effective communication, more satisfactory outcomes and higher job satisfaction – just to name a few.

Roles worked out and defined clearly

If there is one thing that can cause a team to come unstuck very quickly, it is when everybody doesn’t fully comprehend their role and the roles of everybody else in the team. When each individual knows their place and where everyone else fits, it is easier for leadership to show that all are needed in the team and that each has an important task to contribute to team outcomes. Respect is heightened and boundary conflicts are reduced. When each team member has a sense that they have something important to contribute to the team then morale is heightened and productivity is increased.

It is therefore important to review job descriptions and roles on a regular basis. It is up to the team leader in their individual discussions and six-monthly reviews with their team members to assess how accurately their job roles reflect their current required activities. If changes are needed then they need to not only be clarified to the individual team member, but to the whole team. There doesn’t need to be a significant amount of team time taken on discussing such changes, but it does need to be communicated accurately, showing how it benefits the team and the achievement of team objectives.

Effective team meetings

Team meetings can be the undoing of many potentially great teams. They can also be productive, fun and time efficient. The team leader therefore must take responsibility to facilitate them well. Functionally speaking, a well prepared agenda is important to make sure time is not wasted and that the order of the agenda is prioritised in line with the strategic intent of the team. It may not need to be said, but don’t place significantly important agenda items at the end – give them the discussion time they need.

Now when it comes to fun, there is actually a way to make meetings fun and in doing so make them more productive and less confrontational. The team needs to discuss the behavioural norms that they are expecting in team meetings and what is not going to be tolerated. You can creatively discuss specific things such as “yelling” and then come up with a specific phrase combined with an action that team members will use when they see this type of behaviour being demonstrated (see example below). I have done this in teams that I have lead and it is quite amazing how quickly people are confronted in a fun way and are swiftly prompted to move out of their current negative emotional state.

As an example, if someone is speaking over the top of others and not allowing team members to share their perspective, you could say something like, “Is there only one TV channel in this room?” And twist your hand around as if you were trying to change the channel. Because team members have all creatively come up with the unique phrases and combined actions, everyone (especially the culprit) is immediately aware of what behaviour is being exercised and recognised. Everyone has a quick smile or laugh and then the meeting immediately operates in a more productive manner. When a team can operate like this it allows for more innovative discussions without unnecessary dysfunctional team interaction.


Just remember, that team-building is never static. It is always something that the leader must be attending to. When it is attended to correctly it can bring about a powerful synergy where the team outcomes are greater than the sum total of the parts. It can be good to get specific feedback from team members every 6 months to see if you are keeping your finger on the teams’ pulse.

© David Allan, All rights reserved

How To Build A Team: How Leadership Training Helps

Companies have been talking about teams for decades. But what does that really mean? Does it change anything to take an existing work group and call it a team? Are teams really different from groups? If so, what makes them different? Are teams really different? Better? More productive? Most leadership training includes material on teams. Few, however, really describe clearly what a team is or how to go about creating one. Many of the principles taught in leadership training such as the importance of clear expectations, clarity of purpose, collaboration, mutual trust building, relationship building and so forth are important for all kinds of groups and organizations, not just teams. Teamwork becomes important when the task demands that the members need one another to succeed. Interdependence is the key factor that separates teams from other kinds of groups. If the organization has tasks that naturally lend themselves to this kind of interdependence, then teams may be the right way to go. If you have to artificially create “interdependence” then the team members may feel manipulated. “Why are they putting us into teams? Wouldn’t this get done easier and better by assigning it to an individual and giving them a little staff support? What are they up to?”

Before You Create Teams

There are many questions that need to be answered before you decide to set up teams in your organization. Depending on the reasons for your leadership training, many of those questions might be addressed early during the training sessions. Assuming that there is a task that calls for the kind of interdependence we have mentioned here or the work itself requires it, the additional questions that should be answered include:

  • What is the team’s purpose/vision? If there is a clear organizational need for the team, the team member themselves might help to answer this question.
  • What are the team’s primary functions? Identify problems? Generate solutions? Solve problems? Make recommendations? Make decisions? Implement solutions? Or, will the team simply go about the day-to-day task of getting the work done.
  • Who should be on the team? If the team is structured around an interdependent task, it should be clear who the members should be. My first organizational mentor told me when I asked about team membership, “If he or she can mess it up, they should be on the team.”
  • What are the rules of membership? How is it decided who joins the team or who leaves the team?
  • How much authority does the team have? What is the source of that authority? How will it be determined if the team should continue on or disband? How much power does the team have?
  • What type of team are you? Self-directed work team? Project team? Cross-functional team? Advisory group?
  • What kind of leadership do you have? Want? Authoritarian” Bureaucratic? Parrticipative? Consultative? Leaderless? Self-led?

This is just a sampling of the questions that should be addressed. Few companies are so thorough. More commonly, managers put people into teams, conduct a little team training, some leadership training, then stand back and wait for them to produce. Little wonder that many employees become discouraged. Under the right conditions, teams can produce far more that aggregates of individuals but it is not an easy thing to accomplish. Even if the company takes considerable care in designing the tasks so that there is a lot of interdependence and spends an adequate amount of time during their team training and leadership training answering those important questions, there is still much to do. The team members need to learn how to work together in a team. While this may seem obvious, the skills needed to be successful in a team are often quite different that those skills that they have been relying on to do their jobs.

After You Create Teams

There are hundreds (probably thousands) of guidelines for building a team. It is a very complex process but all of the guides contain certain universals. At the risk of oversimplifying, here are what I believe to be the absolutely essential components for building an effective team.

  • Purpose. There should be a compelling business reason for creating a team. The managers who are responsible for the function should have a clear understanding of how a team will help them meet their production, quality, customer service goals, etc. The team members should also understand their reason for being. Organizations where managers create teams to accomplish corporate goals but tell their employees that the team is really for some other purpose (having more fun, developing the team members, creating more work/life balance, etc.) will ultimately be found out. Most people are perfectly O.K. with being asked to help meet business objectives if they see it as an honest request and they are given the resources to do what needs to be done and are acknowledged for their efforts. It is often highly valuable to also create a joint vision of what the team should eventually become. The more that the managers and team members participate jointly in such a process, the greater clarity there is for everyone.
  • Structure. Make sure that everyone understands how the team (or teams) is organized. It is important that the team leader knows his or her role and how to perform it. Don’t skimp on leadership training for the immediate team leader. Make sure everyone on the team is clear about how much time, effort, and resources should be applied to the team’s business. Get clear agreements on when and how the team meetings will be conducted. The most effective teams spend a considerable amount of time on this. They establish standard agendas, ground rules, problem solving techniques, methods for communicating with management, how the process will be facilitated, etc. Make sure that everyone knows who belongs on the team.
  • Skills. For many teams, this may be the hardest part. As individual contributors, it may not be so important the every employee is an excellent communicator but as a member of a team that changes. Effective teams need to build trust so that they are confident that they can rely on one another. Listening, giving and receiving feedback, resolving conflict, and problem solving become highly important. Team members must learn to be more attuned to the more subtle aspects of relationship development, what we often refer to as “soft skills.” Many of these skills can be addressed in good leadership training during team start up but must also be reinforced and facilitated on an ongoing basis. Teams will find that they need to have conversations about topics that were previously discussed only with managers or with human resources specialists. It takes some time for team members to achieve a level of comfort with these skills so patience is advised.
  • Resources. Nothing will kill a team faster than giving them a task to perform but withholding the resources needed to complete it. Make sure that the teams have access to the appropriate expertise (engineering, scientific, computer, etc.), ability to acquire needed materials, sufficient personnel, and time to spend on the team’s tasks.
  • Measurement. Finally, the team and the team’s sponsors need clear mechanisms to tell them if they are making progress. These measurements should be jointly created by the management and by the teams. They should be simple, clear, and the connection between the team’s actions and the measurement should be undeniable. Few things are more motivating that knowing that you are part of something successful. The enthusiasm generated is often contagious. Few things are more de-motivating than being told you are not making enough progress but not understanding why that is so. The resulting discouragement is also contagious.
  • Organizations can benefit greatly from the creation of teams, but only if approached with the same sense of diligence and clarity that other business objectives are pursued. Over the years, many organizations have made a hash of their team process by giving it inferior status in the hierarchy of corporate objectives. It takes work to make a team effective. Not just hard work on the part of the team members but also by the managers whose organizations stand to benefit. Leadership training should include a major emphasis on the role of the managers in the team process.