No QA? All QA!

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One of the major topics that intimidate test engineers is the No-QA question or approach (depending on your view of it).

I heard such responses after the session “Fiverr delivering fast..No QA”, by Gil Wasserman, Fiverr VP R&D, at our Agile Israel 2016 event. QA members asked me if they should look for their next role, and I keep hearing this concern whenever this topic arises.

So, is it true? Should we eliminate the QA role? Or better say – merge it into the developer’s role?

I truly understand the motivation for a No-QA approach – We do want to have a shared team responsibility for quality. We want the team to own it. We want developers to develop quality code and quality products and not to hand over the code to someone else’s problem. But I found that the No-QA way of doing it provides a contradictory message. If we eliminate the QA how will we increase the quality? How will we focus the developer’s attention on quality? What do we expect them to do?

Does this mean that there is no need for QA as team members? No QA expertise that should be valued?

Well, if we eliminate the QA role we don’t leave much choice for the developers other than to tell them that there is no one else to test, so they have to.

It’s like homework, you can hate doing it, but if you don’t – how will you learn? And yes, developers resist doing testing, but if they won’t – how will they learn? How will they value their code, their solutions, and the user flow? How will they improve the product’s testability and support?

But No-QA? Can they just do it? Don’t they need guidance, or assistance? Someone that will help them make their environment more supportive for testing and quality improvements, someone that will help them criticize the product, its solutions, and technology, someone that will guide them in thinking from the customer’s point of view?
This is where the QA team member gets in.  In the webinar of Quality at Speed, How JIRA Does QA they call QA – quality assistance.

I really like this term, because test engineers should not be quality controllers, instead they should assist in building quality into the process, and grow their team’s quality consciousness and practices.

They should use their creativity to run exploratory testing, to better represent the user, by setting better test environments and assist in defining better user stories, MMFs (Minimum Marketable Features), and MVPs (Minimum Viable Products).

They should question if you are building the right it rather than if you built it right, as greatly discussed in GTAC 2011: Opening Keynote Address – Test is Dead.

They should inspire others by promoting test-first approaches, defining automation & TDD (Test Driven Development) as well as working closely with developers on defining UT (Unit Tests). They should assist in becoming an All-QA.

As such, the ratio of Quality Assistance doesn’t have to grow. You can keep a small community of QA to provide higher quality and the fastest speed. You can make the developers build AND also evaluate their outcomes, relieving the QA bottleneck, but without ignoring the QA added value. Instead, you leverage it.

In organizations that develop complicated products or projects, that require domain/field expertise, merging the QA role into the developer’s one is not an easy and sometimes not a doable path. In the same way that developers hold their main expertise and can do some in other areas, including testing (being more T-shaped members), there is a place in the team to hold test assistance that can be experts in a certain domain of testing and also guide others towards better quality and contribute to other team’s areas as automation, pairing with developers on UT and TDD and so forth. The magic word here is balance. Balancing dev-test work within the teams and balancing shared team ownership and individual distinctiveness.

In an HBR article of the-problem-with-rewarding-individual-performers, Jay Van Bavel and Dominic Packer wrote that “By balancing individuals’ need to belong with their desire to stand out, a leader can build a sense of “optimal distinctiveness” among group members”.

I find it a real art to keeping optimal distinctiveness in the team. To relieve the threat of a cross-functional team with T-shaped people and shared ownership of quality, and still keep the team members as individuals, that are being recognized for their distinct expertise that contributes to the team.

So, No-QA or All-QA? Yes, I think that words reflect and impact our mindset. Therefore, an ALL-QA approach is better than No-QA.

QA has lots to do with building quality, assisting developers to test, ensuring that quality can be enabled, qualifying that the organization is building the right it, and making quality an asset of ALL the team.

What do you think?

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