Agile and Testing Change Can Come from Leaders at the Bottom, Not the Top
When people think of leadership, they often imagine a small group of managers/higher-ups at the top guiding the rest of the team in a specific direction. They have a plan—for example, creating a more agile environment—and they help herd the masses through hoop after hoop to get there.
And that’s how plenty of organizations work—from a top-down perspective. However, that very often leads to testers, developers, and other members of the software organization not getting a say in how this change occurs. It also doesn’t give an opportunity to the natural leaders on your team to assert themselves and better explain to their coworkers why the change is necessary.
This style of leadership is something Adam Auerbach, Vice President of Quality and DevOps Engineering at Lincoln Financial Group, is instituting at his new job. After moving to Lincoln, Auerbach took stock of what they had and began communicating with people all across the different teams—not just the leadership.
“I'm doing skip levels with everybody that's in my group, and so we talk about it on a personal level, like, ‘How are you doing? How are you handling the workload?’ And me reassuring them that if they need to walk away for a little bit they can, but at the same time this is important,” Auerbach explained in an interview at STARWEST. “And this is how they're going to improve themselves and how we're going to improve as a company.”
By empowering these members of the team and putting a focus on both self and company improvement, Auerbach was able to see change start at the bottom of the company and move toward the top.
“We didn't know what service virtualization was a couple months ago. We didn't know what acceptance test-driven development was. We now have hundreds of tests that have been automated,” he continued. “We're working on building out the Jenkins integration right now, being able to stand up more virtualization pilots. We have a test data management team that we didn't have. All these things have organically been created because the team has gotten energized and started making this progress.”
That energy is contagious. Socializing with managers allows the higher-ups to discover who's differentiating themselves from the pack, and from there, these higher-ups can rely on these natural leaders to affect change and emphasize why that change is important.
Change doesn’t need to be a decree from the top that forces everything else to follow suit. Change can and should start from the bottom, and that happens after you empower your developers and testers and clearly show why things like agile are critical to overall success.