Saturday, September 1, 2012

Becoming an Inspiring Test Coordinator

Many starting testers would like to become test coordinators in stead of better testers. However, many good test coordinators are good all-around testers with extra coordination skills. I don't know for myself, how good of a tester I would make but I know I always liked testing and I keep improving my testing skills, even though officially, I'm not testing anymore for the last 3 years.

Seeing Test Coordinators, and working with and for them, I realized there are only few inspiring leaders among them. The biggest pitfalls a test coordinator has in front of them, that keep them from becoming inspiring leaders are the following:

"The common enemy" or "The common goal"?

As a coordinator, you'll need to run test activities like clockwork. The best way to do so is by making your individual testers work as a team.  Bringing people together can be done the easy way, by finding the common enemy, or the hard way, by identifying the common goal. The common goal sounds a bit naive maybe. Facing a goal that you might not reach also requires some sort of bravery. Defining achievable targets towards the common goal, is the key to move on and increase the team spirit on success and even on failure.

"Driving the heard" or "Leading by example"?

Telling people what to do, often results in the opposite effect. The best way to get respect,  is to take part in the test activities. So you better aim to be a good tester, if you ever want to become a good coordinator. Coaching is part of the job. If a tester doesn't know how to get started, you will have to come up with something that works. If your testers miss out on something, it's your job to find out about it and make them aware. 

"Responsibilization" or "Taking the problems away"?

Your testers will face issues constantly. Unstable environments, data restore issues, changing user expectations, defect discussions... Issues will overcome them on a daily base. You have 2 options. Try to let your testers solve the issues by making them responsible or taking their problems away. Taking problems away is often a hard job and might not be very rewarding. You'll need to make your team aware of how you manage their problems, you can even ask them for advice.

"Push pressure further" or "Push pressure back"?

Project managers like to hear that all is going well and tend to become a pain in the ass when testing is not proceeding as planned. Mostly that is because all the buffers they placed in the project are used and your poor test activities are getting squeezed in timelines. Your job is to make sure that testing continues like clockwork and keep management changing ideas, controls and unnecessary reports as far away from your testers as possible. 

"Mushroom coordination" or "Transaparant coordination"?

Knowledge is power. As a test coordinator, you know more than your team members. You take part in steering and coordination meetings. You can use this knowledge either to outsmart your team members and stay one step ahead of them, or you can use it to inform your team members for which they will reward you with trust.

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