How do you stay in synch with your busy test team?
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.
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.
Clearly not all of these are appropriate for all shops. Some work only for smaller teams, some might be unique to my team.
What do you do that helps you stay in synch with your test team members?
Re: How do you stay in synch with your busy test team?
What from this list I personally do on a regular basis is only weekly team meetings plus my own reports. And there's absolutely no point to gather entire team for status meeting unless the team is 7-10 people or less. For larger teams there always is (or at least should be) an hierarchical structure, so you'd rather want to call up only your direct subordinates. Let them handle (and do require them to) their own status meetings with their people - and then bring up their status reports and problems during your meeting.
Some is more or less likely to happen (not to mention project meetings, these are of another line of responsibility), but definitely is not a habitual.
What I never do, neither as test manager nor as a line manager for all testers - a review of everything they produce. If I only attempt to read (and to comment - otherwise there's no use in reading) all the test cases, documents and bugs a team of let's say five testers writes daily, I would be only reading and reading without any chance of doing something else. Instead I can do (and everyone knows that I really do) some random checks, especially where I feel problems. God have mercy for those got caught in process [img]/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] They will be at least entitled to extremely boring lecture on how to do tests the right way.
However, even perfect results and smooth reports do not guarantee them from those checks - and random checks do reveal new problems sometimes. Summarizing this, I do not spend much time on checking every artifact, but I do keep the team alert and motivated to keep the good pace.
Also I always try to make everyone know the rules, and I do encourage transparency at all times. So if one starts to underperform, it becomes visible long before it grows into real problem.
Please do not think I cultivate oppressive environment. No, the atmosphere at our office is rather relaxing and friendly, but I keep stressing to people the fact that as long as goals are reached and results are delivered in full and on time I don't care about the rest. But not delivering results is not an option and will not be tolerated. If they have a problem delivering, they are encouraged to escalate it to me as soon as possible, and in most cases we work it out in almost no time.