November 15, 2011

How Do You Keep In Synch With Your Test Team?

How are things?

One of the challenges for a busy manager with a team of busy testers working on multiple projects is keeping in touch, knowing what's going on, where help is needed, how to unblock obstacles. It's difficult (for me at least), and takes some work, but it's well worth it.

Here are some of the things that I do:
  • Weekly Team Meetings - On Mondays, I have a meeting with the entire QA Team - associates and contractors alike.  I remind them of upcoming company events, make sure we all know if any of us is going to be out of the office during the week, celebrate last week's releases, give everyone a turn to talk about what they did last week and will be doing this week, and discuss any problems or issues which might be affecting the group. The primary goal here is to try and ensure that everyone hears a bit about what everyone else is doing and how it might affect them. copyrightjoestrazzere
  • Weekly One-on-One Meetings - Once each week, for at least 1/2 hour, I meet individually with each QA Team member. This is our scheduled chance to talk privately. We talk about current and upcoming projects, about any problems needing attention, and anything that might be getting in the way of success. I keep a Word document for each individual and add reminders to myself into it during the week. Then I use that document during our One-on-One so that I can remember to bring up the important topics.
  • Bi-Weekly Team Discussions - Every other week, we get together to talk about "QA stuff" for an hour. This meeting is led by one of the team members rather than me. Often we talk about testing tips, about how to do something more effectively, and anything else that might help us grow as QA Professionals. Recently, we've been discussing the book "Lessons Learned in Software Testing" - kind of a book club discussion. It's informal, and fun.
  • Status Reports - I try not to burden my team with a lot of formalities. I want them to test, not fill out forms. But one I do require is a brief weekly Status Report. I only ask for five things: What I worked on this week, What I plan to work on next week, Unplanned activities, Time away next week, and Issues and concerns.  Reading these helps me help them, and gives me a way to look back at a later date.
  • Project Meetings - At my company, for all major projects, the entire project team usually meets once per week. The appropriate member(s) of the QA Team attend those meetings, and I do too. This means that I attend a lot of project meetings, but for me it's generally time well spent. I get to hear what might be impacting my team in real time.
  • Read ALL of the Bug Reports - Our bug tracking system (currently Bugzilla) allows me to automatically receive bug reports via email when they are filed by someone I am "watching". I look at all of these bug reports at some point during the week. It gives me a lot of insight into the issues testers are finding, what patterns might be emerging, what they aren't finding, and what I might need to do in order to help them and the projects.
  • Read and write emails - Obviously, I get a lot of emails from my team.  I read them all, respond to some and file some away. If I read something that demonstrates particularly good work, I try to reply with a "Thank You". If I read something that needs correction, I may reply by email, but more often I'll put it on my list of things to be discussed in the next One-on-One weekly meeting.
  • Read all the test assets (plans, checklists, etc) - The written output my team produces is a valuable source of information for me. It helps me understand who might be struggling and needs help and who might need more of my attention. Particularly good output might also serve as w terrific model for others on the team.
  • Informal talks - Lots of discussion is informal: in the halls, between meetings, etc. There is often a lot of value in these discussions, too. Sometimes people will tell you more in an informal setting, than they would in your office. Plus, it's fun!
  • Work together on some projects - For some projects, I like to get personally involved. Sometimes I'll help test, sometimes I'll help plan. This is a good way for me to see how things are going, particularly on some of the bigger projects.
  • Formal reviews (quarterly, annual) - My company requires several formal reviews. I'm not a big fan of formal performance reviews, but if they have to be done anyway, I at least try to get something useful out of them. It's one more chance to talk, to reflect over the past time period, and to discuss the future.
  • Greetings in the morning - Since I tend to be the first one in the office each morning, I can't say hello as I walk in. But I do try to make a point of greeting everyone at some point in the morning - as I walk to get some coffee or on my way to a morning meeting.
  • Goodbyes in the evening - On my way home, I say goodnight to anyone who is still around.
These things all help me feel connected and hopefully provide some value to my team as well.

As a busy Test Manager, how do you keep up with all that is going on with your test team?
And if you are a busy Tester, how does your Manager keep up with you?

This article originally appeared in my blog: All Things Quality
My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
Find me at


  1. Great post Joe. I lead a growing test team and I am struggling with the challenges of technology issues, training, scaling, interviewing, and keeping "agile" in agile testing. It takes a lot of time, and it is easy to let the people issues slide. I think I will print out your list and keep it by my desk. Thanks...Bob

  2. Thanks, Bob!

    Glad you can find a use for this list.

  3. Bob - I see you have a blog of your own. If you would like to be included in "People in Testing" and "What People are Writing", just shoot me a note.

  4. Nice to see this.
    I see that I do a lot of your tasks too, but it reminds me also to pick up again some topics, like discussing lessons of the lessons learned, and read all bug-reports...