Critical success factors for establishing improvements

Once TMMi implementation is started, there is a need to look at the test process improvement process itself.

To provide the maximum chance of obtaining positive results the momentum in the program must be conserved and focus maintained.

There are many factors that, if taken fully into account, will help to ensure the success of a test process improvement program:

Guard consistency

Consistency must be maintained between the several elements of an improvement program. All improvements must work as one integrated whole.

Work on both long-term and short-term goals

Test process improvement is almost always a long-term activity. However, in most TPI projects there will be some opportunities for ‘quick-wins’. These are important to identify and act upon for two main reasons:

  • It helps to motivate those involved at the coal-face if useful improvements can be made early in the process.
  • It will make senior management happy if they are able to see evidence of success justifying their support of the process and of the resource allocation they have authorised

Deal with resistance – use marketing

It is only natural for people to resist change – at least initially. If clumsy efforts are made to counter that resistance, for example by simply trying to force the change through, the result is often the opposite of what is intended.

Much better is to try to convince them by a positive marketing of the improvement program (for example by publishing the achievements and positive stories in a regular newsletter) and noting the emotional stages that people undergo when affected by change.

For example, the achieved results or stories from people who have experienced the positive effects of the improvements could be publicised in a regular newsletter to all stakeholders.

Wherever there is resistance, the employee(s) concerned should be consulted and any objections noted. It may simply be that uncertainty is at the root of the opposition to the changes, or worry about how the change will affect the employee’s own situation.

Make use of what is already available in the organisation

If existing practices are able to fulfil the needs of the improvement process, then use them. Do not change simply for the for the sake of changing. Even though there may seem there is a great deal to improve, it does not necessarily follow that everything currently being done is wrong.

It is likely that many employees have good ideas about how things can be improved, but they have not succeeded getting them accepted for whatever reason. People’s own ideas will tend to be more readily accepted and adopted.

In TMMi interviews we always ask interviewees what one thing they would like to see improved – the one thing that causes them the most grief in their working life. Once they have said what it is we ask them how they think it could be done and more often than not, a sensible, workable solution is put forward.

Define the role of external consultants

The use of external consultants on a project can be a positive factor if they are chosen carefully for their specialist knowledge and experience. They can also keep an improvement project in flight and on target even when other activities become a higher priority for the organisation.

However, external consultants must not make decisions on company procedures. They can advise what they think is best, but the final decision must be taken by organisation itself. Employees of the organisation should be the primary resources involved in an improvement program, with external consultants supporting as and when the need arises.

Eventually the external consultants will leave the project, so it is important that improvement activities are anchored in the organisation so the momentum of change continues.

Other factors

There are many other factors that contribute to the success of establishing improvements including:

  • Alignment with co-existing improvement initiatives needs to be ensured
  • Consideration should be given to obtaining and using tools to support the test process improvements
  • If there are any mandatory or advisory external standards related to the process, these should be known by all relevant stakeholders
  • Other stakeholders should be involved when problems to be addressed are not wholly within the testing function
  • The change management process requires monitoring and controlling over the whole of its life cycle
  • The overall process should be defined at commencement to make sure the several components of the improvement strategy are aligned
  • The ownership of the improvement process and the processes to be introduced should be identified and properly organised
  • The skills and knowledge of the people involved in the improvement process should be identified and a comparison made with the skills required to highlight any gaps. This applies not only to testing but also to related areas and to the improvement approach to be used, such as analysis techniques and specific improvement models
  • The targets set for improvements should be realistic, clear and measurable
  • When the improvements are being defined and implemented, test professionals with relevant and specific skill-sets should be involved