Leading in QA

by | Jun 24, 2020

When this topic came up, we were initially going to talk about how leadership in a QA environment was different and how difficult it is. Don’t get me wrong, leading in QA is a tough thing to do. I have the grey hairs to prove it. A lot of re-planning, modifying goals on the fly, changing directions on a dime and dealing with multiple stakeholders with different priorities. As the conversation went on, we started to talk about leadership as a whole, not just with QA.

With everything mentioned above, how is that different from the everyday life of a leader? Not just in software delivery, anywhere? In the end, it is all about doing the right juggling act to get things done. The one thing I have seen where leaders fail is that they try and make everyone happy. That, to me, is a pipe dream. Even in some of my MBA course discussions, we all talked about how it can never happen; someone is not going to like any decisions that people make.

Now here is the key to my success in being a leader, I make sure everyone is not completely happy with what I decide. Now before you say “WHAT THE …..” hear me out. The way I go about it is I get people to talk, not to me, to others that will be dealing with what I would decide. I point those individuals in a direction and find a compromise. Are some people going to be more upset than others? Possibly. The outcome of what I do is hear them all out, understand their side of things and find as close to the middle ground as possible. In the end, it gives a sense of ownership to everyone on what I decide. It is not a dictatorship where I rule with an iron fist.

Now you are probably going: Jeremy; now you are not doing anything or making actual decisions. Correct, to a point. Usually, by the time I get to this point where I bring everyone together, I have made my decision based on the data provided and have planned accordingly. Here is the problem with that, and I am sure you have all experienced this, sometimes you don’t have all the data. I usually find meetings like this or a couple of emails things come out of the woodwork that could throw a big wrench into the plans. So it is essential to get people involved. I would keep going and will gladly answer comments; it is what I want to talk about the other topic that was missed over the summer.

QA Leads

Right off the bat during my career I will say that being a QA Lead for projects was probably the toughest job I have had to this point. Here is the main reason: I had no real authority and all the responsibility. That combination is not a fun position to be in. The analogy I like is you are stuck waist deep in mud with a rope above you just out of reach, you can’t move, there are people on the outside of the mud pit with sticks to reach out to you, yet they have their backs turned to you and they are wearing headphones. Basically you are stuck.

Now it is not all doom and gloom, it is a challenge. How do you get people that have do not report to you to do things for your, or how do you get people that you report to do things you want them to do?

Not only are you leading without authority, you are also planning and understanding risks to what you are trying to get done. It’s tough yet doable, regardless whether you are an extrovert or introvert. In the end it is how you treat others and get them to side with you.

The other aspects is what do I expect out of QA Lead. In the end I need to see someone that will tell me what is really going on, take initiative to make decisions that will get stuff done (letting me know what they are), and plan appropriately. Yes there will be times the schedule will seem unreasonable; welcome to QA. I have never seen a project schedule that was perfect or provided sufficient time. This is the opportunity of a QA lead to show resilience and innovation. When I say innovation I do not mean create some new tool to get things done. Look at the definition of innovation there is more to it than tools and such. Thinking of doing things outside of what is normally done to make it better.

The one thing I do not like to hear is “we have always done it this way”. That tells me people are not willing to find improvements. I have never seen a process or system that could not be improved upon. Even small tweaks can have big impacts or open doors to better opportunities.

Although I said the QA lead was the toughest role I have had, it was also the best. It gave me the opportunity to learn and lead without authority. I took those skills that I acquired and use them with my current role. They are easily transferable and  makes the team better.

I look forward to reading comments and keeping the discussion going.

If you want to hear my views on other topics feel free to let me know.

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