Team Lead and Mentoring - Amha Gebremariam
Author: Amha Gebremariam
Introduction: This course describes two major management functions, leadership and mentoring, that are of major interest to team leaders in the context of software testing. It will cover the definitions of team lead and mentoring, the role of the team leader, and essential mentoring skills.
“Team is a distinguishable set of two or more people who interact dynamically, interdependently, and adaptively toward a common and valued goal (objective), who have been assigned specific roles or functions to perform, and who have a limited life-span of membership.” (Salas & etal)
According to Wikipedia, a team leader or team lead is someone (or in certain cases there may be multiple team leaders) who provides guidance, instruction, direction, leadership to a group of other individuals (the team) for the purpose of achieving a key result or group of aligned results. The team lead reports to a project manager (overseeing several teams). The team leader monitors the quantitative and qualitative result that is to be achieved. The leader works with the team membership. …A good team leader listens constructively to the membership and to the customer(s) of the results that the team is charged with delivering.
Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be. (Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring).
The Role of the Testing Team Leader
The role of a team lead varies greatly between organizations, but usually includes identifying and scheduling tasks, assigning resources, and assigning people to tasks.
- Identifying and scheduling tasks. Tasks identify the work to be done. Typically, this work is defined in a top-down, outline manner. A project needs to be broken down into activities and tasks until each task represents a manageable amount of work that can be planned, scheduled, and assigned. (Whitten and Bentley). As Kaner, Falk and Nguyen indicated when you estimate the amount of testing a product needs, list every testing task that this project will require. Leave nothing out. From here, given a comprehensive list of tasks, you can make explicit decisions. For example, which tasks you simply cannot do; which tasks to do only partially; the prioritization of tasks; and identify important tasks that are along the critical path.
- Assigning resources. Whitten and Bentley categorized resources into five: People, services, facilities and equipment, supplies and materials, and money. These resources have to be assigned to each task. The availability of resources, especially people and facilities, can significantly alter the testing project schedule.
- Assigning people to tasks. “Recruiting the right team members can make or break a project.” (Whitten and Bentley). They also discussed the guidelines for selecting and recruiting the team: Recruit talented, highly motivated people; select the best task for each person; promote team harmony; plan for the future; and keep the team size small. Kaner, Falk and Nguyen concluded that an ideal tester is bright, articulate, and attentive to detail but able to appreciate a larger picture, assertive without being obnoxious, creative, and possessed of a blend of management and technical skills.
Kaner and others indicated that management of the testing group/team offers high pressure. Plus headaches from dealing with your inexperienced and underpaid staff. And little glory. Your company puts up with you and your staff because you provide cost-effective ways to help improve the company’s products. A well run group provides the company with: Competence, testing time, and independence.
Mentoring a Team
Mentoring in a team situation provides an incredibly supportive environment in which to share knowledge and experience. Larry Ambrose wrote on the mentoring benefits and considerations as follows.
- Benefits of Multiple Mentoring. The traditional mentoring model is one mentor working with a single protégé (mentee). The strength of this one-on-one model is that it addresses the individual's needs with no set agenda. But depending on the needs of your organization, multiple mentoring may be a more appropriate model. Multiple mentoring is best used to:
- Capitalize on the unique skills of many individuals who can strategically share them with their peers. An additional use of this type of mentoring is to encourage and instill the spirit of teaching, sharing, and helping within the organization.
- Support team building and mutual competency development within a team. Team mentoring is great for cross-training on specific skills. This form of multiple mentoring supports team building by developing the spirit of giving and requesting help among team members.
- Take advantage of the seasoned expertise of one knowledgeable individual in your organization and make it available to multiple learners at one time.
- Group Mentoring Considerations. Mentoring circles and peer or team mentoring should provide a learning environment that encourages the sharing of knowledge, experience, and insight. Following are some questions to consider before you become involved in a mentoring circle or contemplate joining or forming a peer or team mentoring group:
- What outcomes do you expect from the mentoring group experience?
- What three things do you want the mentoring group to be known for?
- What professional growth and development issues do you want the mentoring group to focus on?
- What do you believe could get in the way of the mentoring group's effectiveness?
- When it comes to facilitating ideas in a group, where are you the strongest? Where are you the least effective?
- What do you expect of other participants in your group?
- How will you know if the mentoring group is working? What will indicate success?