Are leaders born or made? Most people believe leaders have natural characteristics that cannot be learned. Some believe that leadership is a trait you are born with. I have learned over the years that good leaders are made not born. Being a good leader is much more than just taking charge, it’s a never ending process of self study, education, training and experience. Sounds familiar? This is also true for the software test professional. It’s often said that “anyone can become a tester;” however, good testers are also made through education, training, and experience. To produce and retain good testers, good leadership must be established. One method of leadership that can provide remarkable influence on the test team is leading by process. Along the testing highway, there are some critical paths and turns that can be traveled to steer your test team towards test management maturity. Here are some directions from a leadership by process perspective.

Claim Your Independence (Head North)

As most test professionals know, we often fall submission to software development or other departments’ processes. With testing leadership at the wheel, independently setting direction will drive your test team to a prestige managed testing organization. Operating as a separate entity, sanctions the test team to be a non-biased independent view of the software’s quality. This separation permits test management to define effective and efficient quality processes and standards for the entire software development life-cycle (SDLC). The leadership in testing will have the capability to not only lead by influence, but more importantly by process. Test management should define the quality goals, techniques for achieving those goals, and the various roles and responsibilities. This generates a companywide quality system. Test teams will have a sense of responsibility, as well as, authority to implement improvements to the quality system. As a leader in testing, claiming your independence will allow movement from the ground up. Test professionals who work closely with developers will be seen as a counterpart instead of an afterthought. Test teams will have leadership representation that can roll up to senior management as an executive representation of quality. This is a critical milestone in leading your test team in the right direction to test management maturity.

Integrate Your Test Process (Merge)

With a defined and integrated test process, the test team will become the pulse of the organization. Leadership by process will demonstrate to neighboring departments that the testing process reaches across the entire organization and is involved as part of the full SDLC. Testing can be inserted at every phase. This method can eradicate defects as early as possible. With an integrated approach, test leads are able to participate in requirements gathering meetings and provide input from a testing perspective. The process will guide the test team to be in sync with the project. The worries of needing time to analyze and give feedback to the project can be eliminated. Test management can place quality gates into position to ensure the test team is receiving a clear understanding of the project’s goals and objectives. Static testing and code reviews can be the pit stops for the test team to examine the applications under test. With static testing added to the process, test leads are able to hash out any questions or misunderstandings in the requirements. Static testing can be performed at the business and system requirements phases of the project and the benefits can be visibly seen through process reviews. Between code reviews and lessons learned, the test process can be analyzed and adjustments quickly made to keep the test team on the right course. This gives test management process traceability and allows the team to look back and track their efforts.

Visible Test Management and Tracking (The Right Turn)

In any organization, management visibility and tracking is vital to the company’s success. This is especially crucial to the test organization. Without visible test management, test teams cannot track their work. If performance cannot be tracked, there cannot be measurement. If there is no measurement of performance, there cannot be improvement. Effective project planning and tracking are the building blocks that are essential to the success of the test framework. This is an obvious value add to the test team’s repertoire. Each test stage should consist of a formal plan that is visible to the project stakeholders. With this embedded into the process, test management has the ability to plan, estimate, and schedule testing efforts. This allows test management to fine tune performance by adjusting processes and procedures. This type of leadership can be visible to the organization and serve as the company dashboard for delivering quality software. Consistent visibility and tracking gives test management the capability to compare actual activities to the planned activities, opening the door for investigating what is working and what is not. Tracking and analyzing this performance can be used as warning signals to identify gaps in processes or procedures. As the process is developed, practiced and managed, test management can constantly and consistently evaluate and improve the process. This keeps the test organization moving along the test autobahn.

Moving Forward (Keep Straight Ahead)

As software testing moves forward, it is being seen as a critical path of the organization’s success. Test leadership plays a fundamental role in achieving high-quality software. Test management can leverage leadership by process, as a roadmap, in leading their test teams. Test management maturity clearly demonstrates testing independence, an integrated process and visible management. Engaging leadership by process is a method that can be used to guide any test team to a certain level of testing optimization.

About the Author

Jamey Jones Jamey Jones is the chief executive officer of DyLabs, Inc. Having over a decade of experience in the information technology service industry and acting as a critical source to the software development life cycle for various businesses, Jamey provides both strategic and tactical leadership to the software testing industry.