Team Cooperation and the Quality of Work – From the Tester’s Point of View

No one needs to be convinced about the importance of cooperation and proper flow of information in a team. Communication is among the key factors influencing the quality of work, which is a strong determinant of a project’s success or failure.

This article will tell you:

  • about the kinds of communication problems that teams may encounter
  • about the key elements of team-building
  • how you can contribute to a good atmosphere in your team

What makes a good team

Support, acceptance and understanding are all important for the sense of belonging to a group understood as a set of people sharing a common goal. To make an integrated microcommunity of individuals from different backgrounds that have accumulated different experiences, and with different skills and personality traits, is a challenging task. Diversity can be inspiring and motivating, but it can also cause problems and lead to serious conflicts. It is important for each team member to be aware that their attitude and behavior can shape the relationship model among the members.

My first steps on a team

During my 12 years in software/application testing, I have seen diverse projects, teams and organizational cultures. I have gained my experience both in the corporate environment, starting from large corporations, to small companies with a headcount of less than 100. I currently work for Unity Group as a Senior Test Analyst and strive to improve cooperation in daily project work.

The first project in my professional career involved people from across Poland. They had different characters, experience, background and approaches to life. On the one hand, this diversity divided us, but on the other hand, it helped establish strong links between team members and form a tightly-knit group. Although we worked in sub-teams and each of us had different responsibilities, we jointly discussed the problems coming our way. We shared knowledge and trust with one another. Regardless of the role a person had on the team, we were all equal. It was owing to our joint work and understanding within the team that we managed to successfully implement our project.

Obstacles to cooperation on the project

Cooperation on the next project I participated in (my second) was not so smooth. The main barrier was the fact that we were not sharing a single space, which made our communication more difficult. The analyst was always busy and was often late to respond to our doubts. On the other hand, developers – the more experienced ones at least– once they found a bug, would leave us with the problem giving some cliché answers like: “If the customer reports the bug, we will fix it. Now it’s a waste of time”, etc. Less senior developers, who hadn’t yet acquired such habits, would offer us their help and support.

Communication problems that occurred between team members, which on many occasions were reported to the manager or Project Manager, were often ignored or swept aside. Our superiors pretended there was no problem. There were conflicts and unpleasant situations. When you came to the office in the morning, you did not know the agenda or the schedule for the day. Cooperation in such a team was demotivating, which resulted in many people quitting.

Is this what teamwork is all about? In my opinion, no. It’s not about showing others that you don’t make mistakes. Mistakes happen to us because we are only human. What is important in cooperation is to learn from failures and from mistakes. The situations described above undermine trust between employees. To quote my manager, “There is no cooperation without trust.” When we cannot rely on one another and do not nurture communication with each other, we will never be able to build a strong team.

Examples of the best cooperation

Another project on, in which I worked with a small team of people, was a success. Our cooperation was supported by the trust that the project manager placed in us and by the fact that all our questions regarding individual tasks were responded to on an ongoing basis. Good integration of the team, effective performance of duties and communication of problems on the fly made it possible for us to deliver the project to the client two weeks ahead of schedule. After implementation, some minor errors came to light (as can happen after going live), but no one was trying to put the blame on other people. Together, we were wondering how on earth we could have overlooked them. I must admit that the praise we received later from the manager boosted our self-esteem. It was really nice to see someone appreciate our commitment and the hard work we have put to make this project a success. 

The next project, or rather a big modification, was done with people I can call a dream team. I’m talking here not only about people, but also about other aspects, such as the atmosphere or support. The division of roles was traditional: the developer performed an analysis and made the implementation, while front-end developer did his job on the front. To avoid wasting time, we agreed with the Scrum Master (SM) that we would start testing when all tasks had been completed. We didn’t need daily meetings because each of us knew what other team members were doing. When we encountered a problem and we have exhausted our ideas for solving it, we could count on the SM’s support. After production deployment, the Scrum Master also appreciated our commitment to this project.

Obviously, there were many other projects I’ve done. In the above examples, I just wanted to demonstrate the effect that cooperation and communication have on the atmosphere and quality of work. When all team members share a common goal, a sense of community between employees will naturally follow. People from the team I’d worked with before would say all the time, “We’re on the same team, and all working towards the same goal”. To a large extent, it’s up to us how we shape the relationships within the team. They depend on whether team members treat each other with respect or with superiority and on how much they engage in the team’s work.

Things you can have an influence on…

Consider if there’s anything you can change in your team to improve cooperation.

Maybe during your project or team meeting it would be a good idea to talk about:

  • Honest and open communication in the team
  • Respect for other team members
  • Constructive criticism
  • Everyone’s involvement in the team’s work
  • Sense of belonging and identification – “we” thinking rather than “me” thinking
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Mutual support in the pursuit of the common goal
  • Ability to listen to another person
  • Learning from one another

I wish such cooperation to everyone. I wish that people can work in teams whose members think about the team as a whole, not just about themselves. In teams where communication, cooperation and trust are a daily habit and in which all people are treated with respect and are able to put themselves in other person’s shoes, regardless of their gender or seniority – just because everyone deserves it.

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