Monday, June 14, 2010

Being an Effective Test Lead

The ultimate expectation of a test lead is to:

   "always do what most needs to be done without waiting to be asked"

A test lead position has both technical and managerial elements.

A test lead:

- is a domain expert of the software under test
- is a testing expert
- has testing experience to draw upon
- has project planning capabilities
- has excellent communication skills
- actively manages all stakeholders

However, the test lead also has responsibilities towards his/her team to:

- energize
- empower
- support
- communicate
- coach & mentor

The most important test lead function is to get his/her people excited and inspired - to energize them!

The second most important test lead function is to develop the skills and capabilities in his/her team so that they can get the job done efficiently and effectively!

A test lead is only ever as good as his/her team and it is the test lead's responsibility to get the most from the team.

A successful team = a successful team lead!

Test leads:


- get things done individually and through others
- use scarce resources to the best advantage
- cope with change and uncertainty
- achieve and deliver results individually and through others
- assess and proactively manage risks
- allocates testing resources where they are most effective and needed
- gathers evidence to support quality judgments
- coach and mentor
- delegate

Delegation is a vital tool in a test lead's arsenal. A test lead cannot do everything themselves. They must trust their team and delegate tasks to them. Delegation is extremely effective when executed well.

Delegation Hints & Tips
For delegation to be effective, test leads must also give authority to their team members and ensure that those team members have the resources necessary to complete tasks effectively.

The seven steps to effective delegation are as follows:

1. Communicate the task.

2. Set the task in context.

3. Determine standards.

4. Grant authority.

5. Provide support.

6. Get commitment.

7. Keep in touch.

Visit your team members and check their progress on a regular basis.

Use a formal system to track assignments and due dates.

Motivation Hints & Tips

Motivated team members are vital to the success of the project and the team.

To motivate your team:

- Personally thank people for doing a good job. Do it timely, often, and sincerely.

- Take the time to meet with and listen to people - as much as they need or want.

- Provide people with specific and frequent feedback about their performance. Support them in improving performance.

- Recognize, reward, and support the promotion of high performers.

- Provide information on how their work affects the greater scheme of things in the company. Show them that they make a difference!

- Involve people in decisions, especially those decisions that affect them. Involvement equals commitment.

- Give people a chance to grow and develop new skills, encourage them to be their best.

- Provide people with a sense of ownership in their work and their work environment.

- Strive to create a team that is open, trusting, and fun. Encourage new ideas, suggestions, and initiative.

- Learn from rather than punish mistakes.

- Celebrate success!

Remember: For the most part, YOU determine how motivated and de-motivated your team is!


  1. empowering people is so important, and you offer some great tips.

    Being a test manager presents new challenges and requires you to develop different skills in addition to the ones you use for testing. Learning to trust your team and delegate work to them takes work- just like they learn to trust you, your test plans and your decisions.


  2. You've highlighted a great point Devon: trust needs to work both ways!

    Thanks for your comment.