Habits in Quality

Habits in Quality

I often get asked as a quality coach, how do you get teams to do more software testing? It's a tricky one, because as quality coach you don't have any direct authority over anyone in the team. You could try and tell them to do it, but in my experience even if they agree in principle, the pressure of daily work means its hard to gain traction and gradually the motivation disappears.

Getting them the space in terms of time and permission is crucial. It's unfair to expect team members to take on additional workload without having the necessary time to perform those tasks. But I've found that that is only part of the story. I've seen situations where people do have the time, but prefer to pick up new stories rather than help the team perform testing tasks.

Part of the answer, is to tap into what motivates people. The idea, by identifying motivation and aligning quality to that, it makes it easier for the person to adopt change. People though, don't have their motivations branded on their forehead, sometimes they're not aware of what they want themselves! It feels like perhaps a degree in psychology is required to work this out. And, as quality coaches are we really qualified to perform this role?

What if there was a way to help people adopt an activity that places less emphasis on motivation? Can we as quality coaches, help people develop habits to work to improve quality? Is there a way to helps teams gradually embed activities such as software testing into their daily work without requiring large amounts of motivation?

I'm in the process of reading Atomic Habit by James Clear who has the concept of:

Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.
-- James Clear

In this book Clear describes how to create good habits by making them "obvious, attractive, easy to adopt and satisfying."

Might this work for us a quality coaches? I've used an example of how below using Test Driven Development as a way of improving change.

  1. How can I make it obvious? --> use TDD where you create a test first
  2. How can I make it attractive? --> Getting a test to pass
  3. How can I make it easy? --> create examples of tests, arrange Katas
  4. How can I make it satisfying? --> display progress in terms of coverage

The goal here is to help embed small habits to generate long term change, so perhaps it's not TDD all the time, but on one story per iteration. Or one test per story. What ever approach that makes it easy for the team to adopt.

And again, this is a conversation that you would have with the team, helping them develop an approach.

What do you think? Would creating atomic habits helps you as a quality coach?