Don’t waste time on a Team/Company Quality Agenda!

Wasting time and moneyDo you like wasting time on useless tasks?

Is your schedule so “Free & Open” that you are considering embarking on one or two hopeless adventures that will not add any value to you, your team or your company?

I am guessing (even hoping) your answer to both these questions is NO.

So think hard before you answer this next question:

Should you define and promote a Quality Agenda
for your development and testing teams?

There are 2 quick answers, the “automatic” and the “pessimistic”.

The automatic answer –
I am in charge of Quality, and as part of this role I need to have an agenda and push it with all my strength.
I will fight for it and improve the way my company works!
No matter how much people want to cut corners or make risky decisions I will make sure we work only by the rules!”

Then we have the pessimistic one –
In the end, no matter what we all say right now, the product will be released when Marketing wants to release it.
No one will care if we have 3 or 7 or 17 showstoppers open in the system. Regardless of what I think or say about Quality we will keep working in the same way we do today.
So I better concentrate my efforts and those of my team on testing the product.
Let’s stop wasting time on useless battles…”

What is a Quality Agenda?

Simply put a Quality Agenda is composed of 2 main parts:
1. How your company (or your team) defines Quality in your product or service.
2. The actions or approaches you will take to increase the quality level of this work.

In the “Corporate World” this agenda is sometimes stated as a 2 or 3 line paragraph that hangs on a hallways of your building, or is shown as part of a presentation given by the CEO at the beginning of the year. Some times it is also handed out as small plastic cards that employees quickly place in their drawers (together with all sorts of company vision and mission statements from previous years).

If you will be writing an agenda that will be stuffed in a drawer or forgotten the minute after your CEO moves to the next slide, then I suggest you think of better ways to spend your time.

An effective Quality Agenda should be S.M.A.R.T.

(I think I wrote about this acronym in the past, but I find it so useful that I will repeat it’s meaning once again.)

A good Quality Agenda, one that people will find useful and that will have a (positive) impact should be SMART:
SIMPLE– Something that explains in clear words what you want to achieve.
MEASURABLE – You can clearly see if you are on the right track and making progress or going backwards.
ACTIONABLE – Everyone should understand what to do and what not to do to advance the quality goals of the company.
REPEATABLE– When talking about the progress metrics, they need to be clear and repeatable. Everyone who looks at them will be able to understand them and reach the same conclusions.
TIMELY– The actions, objectives and goals should be based on the current status of the company, and need to be revised or changed based on the changing reality of the company and the competitive environment.

Is this really your task?

Now you understand what is a (good) Quality Agenda. This means that is time to start thinking whether this is something you should be leading within your company, or maybe stop from taking part on battles that are not yours to fight…

In my mind, when we talk about a Quality Agenda and we define it as the goals, plans and tasks aimed at improving the quality of your product and process, then this actually is your task!.

It is true that you are not responsible for the direct quality of your entire product, after all this task needs to be shared by all the team. But for me, the Quality Agenda is the responsibility of the QA Manager, since he/she should lead the process to achieve a better way to work and deliver higher quality products or services.

Defining the Agenda is only the start, the secret is to make this an on-going task

Defining the agenda is only the first part of your job. Once this is done you need to provide visibility and guidance to achieve the goals you set.

I said that good goals should be Measurable and Actionable, so it also your responsibility to make sure people are performing the right actions and that you are measuring the desired change in the system.

The best way to do this is to set up a recurrent event, it can be a meeting or even a monthly email, where you will give visibility into the progress achieved (or not!). I personally like the approach of setting up a kitchen monitor with this information.

You want to achieve a healthy competition between your teams that will push your quality forward.

In the past I’ve worked with monthly trophies to the team who made the biggest improvement and even with prices such as dinners and gadgets to the individuals who had the biggest effect on improving the quality of the whole company or process.

When should you NOT WASTE YOUR TIME on a Quality Agenda?

For me, this is a simple question.

If I feel that my management doesn’t stand behind me and that they will choose to compromise quality in order to fulfill other business goals, or if I see that the goals we want to set as a company are not serious enough or not achievable by any means, then I will choose to make better use of my time.

Quality Agenda != Quality

Remember that you can have quality without having a Quality Agenda. The agenda should only help you to focus all the company employes, making sure we are all on the same page.

If your company chooses not to invest in the quality of your product and process, no Agenda or any other gimmick will help you to push this forward.

What’s your take on this?

Do you have any success (or horror) stories related to the Quality Agenda in your company? Share them with the rest of us, go ahead and post them as comments!

Images by digitalart, farconville, Master isolated images

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4 Responses to Don’t waste time on a Team/Company Quality Agenda!

  1. Philip Hamilton April 9, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    I agree that you can have quality without a quality agenda, but it would be similar to playing football without a playbook, or without a play. Can you imagine everyone huddling up, and the QB saying, “ok let’s go get ’em”. Maybe if you have a superstar QB who can predict where everyone will be and receivers and running backs that go where needed automatically, you could score a touchdown now and then! A quality agenda should be the playbook for the team. It can be as specific as a measurement, or be general in principle so that all players are moving down the field in the same direction. Otherwise, quality is by chance.

  2. Amarjit Dhillon May 12, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    At individual contributor level, sometimes it is very risky to push quality agenda when your management is only good for coming up with fancy quality agendas/documents/graphs but lack the needed courage to support you. For individual contributors working in this type of orgs, the situation can be described as “In the boxing ring with hand tied back”
    What is the possible solution for this?
    AS. Dhillon

  3. David Almond June 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Writing a quality agenda seems a straight forward activity on the surface; right there with IT strategies and project plans. However, the key is making it relevant and a “living” part of the IT function. The SMART aspect is paramount and it also needs to be forward thinking; aligning with the direction the department/company want to go with their IT projects. As such it is not a static document and should be rexamined/evaluated for readyness with all major projects – hence the need to be a living document.
    No one project or test methodology leads into deliverying quality – it can’t be a remote set of measures such as low defect turnover rate, high speed delivery of change. I am a big enthusiast for adding small quality info-points into stand-ups and using wall-chart key snapshots to point to “quality hot-spots” so that it becomes part of peoples thinking. It might sound a bit “pat” but quality needs to be part of the conversation during the project rather than an empty box on the project-wrap-up which no one wants to review when delivery is complete.

  4. joelmonte June 11, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Your point about making Quality a part of the conversation is one of the things that differentiates the teams that really understand Quality from those that only know how to talk about it during their retrospectives (after their projects are late and faulty!).  In here the trick is how to make your developers see this is part of their “day-jobs” and your idea of adding it to the stand-ups is a good one.

    Thanks for sharing it!


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