The Unteaming of Teams

Team spirit can be a good thing but when teams starts to compete internally despite having the same goal then it can be a problem.
During a startup meeting for a new project I suggested to the developers that they could bring code to me for testing in an earlier stage. The developers stood up as one entity and shouted “No! We don´t want you or anyone else to file bug reports on our unfinished code!”. The developers were used to having the development and test teams separate and in a kind of competition; the testers were handed the code after it was “done” and then pointed out the errors the developers had made. To calm the developers down and to stress that I was not looking for improving my statistics I told them: “I will not file any bugs before OR after you have delivered your code unless you first agree to it. I can provide help and value by being involved in an earlier stage supporting you.”. And then there was silence…
Once the confusion has settled the developers decided they were ok with the idea. Shortly after that meeting I started to get frequent visits from the developers with suggestions and requests for help with testing of different parts of the software. After four months I was leaving for another assignment and got the question who would be taking over as test lead after me and I replied: “I’m not test lead, that´s the guy over there.”. The answer was followed by the question “Who is that?”.
If you spot teams building walls against each other putting more effort into preparing for long sieges than working together an intervention might be in place. If the people in the teams are not working well together because they are in different teams then Unteaming the teams might help. By unteaming the development and test team and creating a bigger team the cooperation towards our common goal greatly improved. The actual test lead still had the mindset of his team being separate from the other teams and because of this he became less involved in the combined effort. Since he waited for communication via mail or management he missed out on the opportunity to work more proactive.
My conclusion from this experience is that team building can be good thing but if it is done at the expense of less collaboration between teams then unteaming can make a positive difference.

And I want to send a thank you to Michael Bolton for pushing me to write this post and who helped me with feedback!

 

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5 Responses to The Unteaming of Teams

  1. Steve Öberg says:

    Excellent post Martin!
    It sums up a lot of my own ideas and experiences.

  2. Maria Kedemo says:

    Interesting read Martin. Were you part of the team from the beginning? I mean part of the formal team or did you belong to an actual test team. I experience that even in formal teams where testers are a part of the team this problem might occur.

  3. Pingback: Five Blogs – 7 December 2012 « 5blogs

  4. martin.nilsson says:

    Thanks Steve and Maria :)

    Maria> I belonged to a test team and was at the meeting as a representative of my team (the team lead could not attend if I remember correctly). And the test team had traditionally started once the developers were “done”.
    I have had the same experience as you have, even though you formally belong to the team there are teams within teams. My experience though is that if the other people understand that you can add value to their work then it gets easier to unteam but there are no silver bullets. My coffee cup is usually my greatest weapon but even that one fails at times :)

    I attended a workshop with Donald Gray recently and he had a method of describing something similar in terms of “containers” which could be seen as a broader definition than a team. Basically you can have containers within teams (devs/testers), in between teams (automation testers/exploratory testers etc) and across organizations (projects with testers/devs/project leaders/managers..). I am thinking about writing a more thorough post about this later on.

    • Maria Kedemo says:

      Please do write that post once you get the time. I think you might have forgotten something to go with the coffee…candy and cake! :-)
      But yes there are many ways to get rid of ‘containers’. The main part I think is communication and to show genuinely interest in others work and profession, to respect each other. Unfortunately as a tester you might have to prove or show how you can be a valuable person to the team exactly as you describe it before you get the respect you want. On the other hand that is the same for most people.

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