Quality Coaches

February 26, 2024     Janet Gregory, Lisa Crispin
Learning, quality, quality coach     quality coaching

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In the last few years, we’ve been hearing “buzz” about quality coaches. Everyone seems to have their own take on the subject, and we’ll share some links from others expressing their opinions.

As testers/quality advocates, we care about the quality of our product, as least we hope that is the case. That doesn’t mean the developers or product owners don’t care about it. As testing specialists, we seem to be closer to the subject, since we are often the ones finding and helping prevent bugs daily.

One definition we found for quality coach is: a person who assists the team in setting up the quality culture, quality mindset and quality process in the team to improve the quality of the process and the outcome.

We like this definition because it doesn’t say the quality coach is responsible for quality but is someone who assists the team in learning more about what quality means. It means being able to facilitate conversations about quality, not only for the team, but for the organization as well. Quality is about so much more than the number of bugs in the system. A quality coach needs to think about it more holistically – from a process point of view: how well do we create our products, and also from a product point of view: how well are we meeting our customer’s needs. They guide the team’s efforts to build quality in from the first discussions about potential new features to understanding what people experience when using the product.

The general rules about what makes a good coach also applies to a quality coach: asking questions and listening carefully to the answers, observing, guiding (not directing), helping the team to identify problems and experiment with solutions and continue to improve. Anne-Marie Charrett introduces a model in this blog post on this subject that we encourage you to read.

Janet began her coaching career a very long time ago, coaching gymnastics. She finds many of the same concepts apply for coaching software teams. Being positive, encouraging, sometimes helping them to find the new skill. 

If your team is discussing quality, and you have few (or no) quality issues in production, then you likely don’t need a quality coach because your team is doing the right ‘stuff’. We find that when testers are overwhelmed trying to test everything themselves, maybe it’s time to step back and take a coaching role, or maybe even a consultant role. You can check out our blog post on being a quality consultant.

For more in-depth information on quality coaching, we recommend Anne-Marie Charrett’s Quality Coach Book, which she’s currently writing and sharing in monthly installments. You can read posts on her website, and access the full content with a subscription, check it out at https://www.annemariecharrett.com/tag/book/. Her Quality Coaching Roadshow podcast with Margaret Dineen is another excellent resource, including interviews with a wide range of quality coaches and leaders. Also, listen to her extensive interview with Alan Page and Brent Jensen on their AB Testing Podcast.