3 Ways to Make Quality a cross functional responsibility

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I get a lot of questions about how testing plays into any Agile framework.  This is usually because when we think of waterfall, we think of testing as a discreet phase.  However, the issue with waterfall is that quality is usually deferred until near the end of the project.

This is very different than how we take a look at quality in a lean and agile context, because we try as much as possible, to poka yoke (error proof) the deliverables.  So the question becomes, why the focus on testing?

The focus is on testing is because people confuse testing for quality.

There are a number of ways you can build quality into the system at a lower cost than testing at the last hour.  However, getting a functionalized team to become cross functional is easier said than done.  Here are 5 tips to make quality a cross functional responsibility.

Tip 1.  Pairing with Developers:

Most “testers” have a technical background, and a large percentage have a computer science/programming background.  Have your testers pair with your developers to write unit tests.  After some time, your testers will be able to get involved as soon as the stories are decided, allowing your team to swarm on items in tandem.

Tip 2.  Early Involvement:

I have seen situations where QA was an “outsider” function.  Some companies think the agile framework is just for the developers, and the testing is still handled in a waterfall fashion with code being “tossed over the wall.”  Involve QA in the grooming and conversation around the deliverables.  Let them ask questions about testability and ensure those items are part of the definition of done.

Tip 3.  Share Test Planning:

Another way to make quality a cross functional responsibility is to have QA share the test plan with the development team while development is still under way.  In this way the qa approach can inform implementation and unit testing details.  It also gives development an understanding of where QA will be focused in terms of testing.

Cross functional teams and cross functional testing

When we talk about cross functional teams, most people assume it means architecture, UI, devlopment, and DBA.  However, quality is different than testing, and quality is a whole team (cross functional) responsibility.

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