Agile adoption: how individuals work as a unified QA team

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Posted by Brian Borg

Agile teams are efficient, cross-functional and flexible. But what helps unify an agile QA team? Throughout all the different aspects of this highly-responsive methodology, there’s one constant component, and that’s collaboration. For QA teams, preventing bugs and shipping products faster requires constant communication and collaboration to maintain their effectiveness.

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Going agile isn’t a simple flick of a switch. Everyone’s got to be on board. Once you’ve got your framework in place, working on your team communication and interaction should be an important next step.

So, how do you create a unified QA team?

Agile isn’t about individualism

Without a doubt, it’s important that every individual on your team knows their role, understands the expectations, and knows how they fit into the wider group. Teams include several individuals, but agile teams aren’t about individualism. It’s about how those individuals work together effectively to meet end goals.

There are desirable traits for individuals in agile teams. McKinsey explored the personality and soft skills required to be an effective team member in an agile team. But, they concluded that it was the combination of these traits and how they gelled with others that were critical to the team’s overall success.

In the end, it all came down to how they worked together.

Collaboration is king

In the Agile Manifesto, two of the four pillars are all about collaboration. It’s what the framework’s built around, so it’s got to take center stage in your QA team. By collaborating effectively, you’ll help each individual in your team better understand how their role contributes to the overall goal.

Firstly, the manifesto emphasizes the importance of “individuals and interactions over processes and tools”, showing that communication and collaboration take priority over any fancy tech.

Then, "customer collaboration over contract negotiation,” keeps your collaboration grounded in the final goal - meeting the needs of your stakeholders.

So how do you go about putting collaboration first? Here are some ways that you can foster a collaborative culture:

1. Keep your communication open

Being on the same page is vital in agile QA teams. Communication is the foundation of collaboration - without it, you’re never going to be able to collaborate in a way that is effective and that moves you towards your end goal.

Communication is more than just making use of tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, it’s about understanding everyone’s perspectives. Be willing to ask questions when something isn’t clear, or encourage others to explain their thoughts more fully to clarify any vagueness. If there seems to be unspoken assumptions, be the one to speak up and make sure you’re all on the same page - you may never know just how many teammates will appreciate your effort, and what kind of pitfalls you might avoid.

2. Disagree productively

In a team, you’re never going to agree on everything. In fact, it’s better if you don’t.

If no one’s challenging issues that they disagree with, the group is in danger of falling victim to “groupthink”. This is where people avoid disagreeing as they think it’ll cause problems within the team. To avoid this, encourage others to voice their opinion and take a positive approach yourself to new ideas, and not take any disagreements personally. Practice gracefully communicating your own approach as an alternative, without making other ideas “wrong” or placing blame. Disagreeing in a productive way is most certainly an art as much as a skill in the agile workplace.

3. Ensure psychological safety

Psychology plays a big role in agile teams. We’ve already looked at the psychology behind agile teams and psychological safety. It’s the concept that co-workers should have the freedom to be vulnerable in front of their teammates.

The coiner of the term, Amy Edmondson, highlighted that the most effective teams create an environment where members feel comfortable enough to participate actively and honestly in all discussions.

Creating psychological safety relies on fostering and promoting such a culture. It’s not something that team leaders can achieve on their own.

Unified agile adoption

You can’t bring ego or neuroticism into an agile team. For effective collaboration, teammates not only need to understand their own individual roles and responsibilities, but each other’s perspectives as well.

If you want to learn more about the agile framework and how QA teams can adopt it to work more effectively, head over to our blog. Or, if you just want to learn more about what we do, get in contact with us.