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How We Can Help Testers Adapt to Working in an Agile Environment | David Tzemach

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

When an organization implements any change, there must be a preliminary understanding of the side effects that may be on its teams. This is true for minor changes and especially true in an Agile transformation that impacts all layers of the organization.

This is crucial from a tester perspective, mainly because they will have to start collaborating with developers as their new teammates and adjust to an entirely new testing mindset. Below are some of the common issues you can expect if the organization fails to address this part of the transition:

  • The team ignores their testers and sees them as the bottleneck of the development process.

  • Lack of automated tools that keep testers stuck in an endless regression cycle.

  • The creation of mini-waterfalls that do not allow testers to test.

  • Programmers who do not participate in the testing effort.

  • Programmers who refuse to adopt critical testing practices, resulting in poor-quality code.

The following tips can help prevent or overcome these issues and help testers and their teams adapt to the Agile environment.

Knowledge Is Key

It is easier for people to embrace a change when communicated to them before implementation. In an Agile transition, it becomes even more critical as the uncertainty and anxiety of employees can become the Achilles heel of the shift.

To reduce these factors and to ensure positive collaboration from employees, and testers, in particular, it is essential that the organization communicate not only the change itself but also other crucial information such as:

  • The reasons that led the organization to choose this new path.

  • They will benefit from the change and why it is good for them.

  • What are testers' expectations, boundaries, and responsibilities once they integrate into their teams?

  • How they can become key members in the process as active practitioners.

Set Expectations Up-Front

Your teams must understand their expectations once the organization starts the transition process. To get everyone on the same page, make sure to set the expectations up front. People will be more collaborative with the process once they know how moving to Agile development will affect them.

Be Tolerant of Mistakes

Testers are expected to have some significant challenges in their changing role. As a result, both they and their colleagues will have to adopt a collaborative approach, working together as one self-organized team. Until they do, the chances are that they will fail to deliver on time, provide products of poor quality or go back to their old habits.

The key to handling these situations early in the transformation process is to be patient about those mistakes and use them as a growth engine for the team.

Professional Development Is Mandatory

In an Agile environment, testers must work harder than other team members. Testers must always learn to add value to their teams as equal team members.

Testers must learn new technologies, testing practices, coding languages and more. This is how testers can be more involved in development activities (writing tests, code reviews, pairing with developers etc.) and increase their value among their associates.

Let Them Fail Until They Feel the Pain

Sometimes you need to let the team fail to understand that their current path is wrong. For example, I once had a case where a tester would not collaborate with his team because he felt that he was the only authority for quality.

Although I tried to explain why this is not suitable for this environment, he kept up his behaviour. The solution was to let him repeatedly fail until he started to feel the additional effort needed just to become the bottleneck of the team that continually failed to deliver.

Then, both he and the team started to raise their ideas on how they could collaborate and what changes they wanted to make to increase the effectiveness of the testing process. This is just one of many examples of how we can use failures to drive a change within Agile teams by simply knowing that there are some cases where the change can only come from the team itself and cannot be enforced by external stakeholders.

Promote the Change Through Collaboration

Testers need to become an integral part of the team. To adapt to the new testing environment, testers should collaborate with their colleagues rather than become the enforcers for quality issues that programmers can easily misinterpret as an unwanted authority.

Suppose a programmer does not collaborate and fails to follow the basic quality standards. In that case, testers can try to work with other team members and explain why ignoring critical issues hurts the team and their ability to deliver high-quality products. Testers can also ask for help from the team manager, Scrum Master or Agile coach to find solutions for this problem through collaboration and not by executive fiat.

Earn Your Respect

As a tester in Agile teams, sometimes you need to respect programmers who have not worked with you before or cannot see the value you can add to the team. To change that, you must show them that you can contribute like any other team member.

There are some basic ways to do that, for example:

  • Help programmers design lower-level tests (unit, component, and integration).

  • Ensure you provide constructive feedback about their code and not just criticize.

  • Talk with them before opening bugs to understand the real problem.

  • Collaborate with them through code reviews.

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