2nd Nov 2020

How to prepare your Functionality QA team for growth and success

by Kaushal Singh, Functionality QA Manager

In rapidly evolving industries such as video games, success and growth may happen in a heartbeat.

To leverage and support this growth, some initial steps include acquiring more space, buying additional equipment and increasing the size of your team. Building your team may pose the strongest challenge and getting it wrong can prove costly.

This article aims to share some of the challenges that I faced as QA Manager for Keywords Studios in New Delhi. I hope the insights and learnings prove useful to those experiencing or aiming for growth and change management.

Building from the ground up

To lay the right foundations for growth, it’s important to ingrain collaboration among your employees and encourage combined efforts for better outcomes. There are many potential challenges as you build your team, in particular the following:

  • Knowledge gaps: The team may not yet have the required skills
  • Resisting change: Potential reluctance in existing team to change and adapt
  • Managing quality: Maintaining the highest quality is essential as existing systems and talent may need to evolve
  • Budgets: Well, there is never enough.

My experience with the above points helped me realise that there are three key steps for growth:

Step 1: Build a mind-set for growth amongst your teams

Step 2: Instil a culture of learning

Step 3: Identify potential pitfalls and map a path for success

Building a mind-set for growth

Building an organisation is somewhat like building an apartment block. First, you create the surrounding infrastructure before you can move in. From a team’s perspective, this equates to building capability and knowledge and embedding the right attitude to take ownership of challenges that come with growth.

In my team, we build this ownership in incremental steps. Team members are encouraged to take extra responsibilities beyond their day-to-day delivery key result areas (KRAs), requiring platforms that allow people to step up and drive improvements for better results.   

Committees of experiment is one such platform, where employees are encouraged to remove themselves from their routine and add value to the entire department and organisation. The committees meet once a week to plan out activities in their respective focused groups.

Each committee is given a predefined budget, which they can use at their discretion. Committee members are rotated quarterly to encourage participation and innovation. Benefits generated include:

  • Proactivity for growth – the structure is already changing and developing itself for continuous improvement
  • Teamwork and leadership experience while building progressive organisational values and a sense of belonging
  • Improved job satisfaction, as employees collaborate for a changing organisation

Building a learning regime

Learning lays the foundation for improvement and makes for better and happier employees. It also gives sense of progression in a role. Learning can be thought of in three major components.

Illustration of the three components of learning

Books and Courses: At Keywords Functionality QA, we take time to build up a training schedule at the start of every year. This ensures removal of constraints (budgeting, scheduling etc.) early in the year and leads to smoother progress.

In 2020, year the main highlight is our learning program. The goal of the programme is to create specialisations within the team.

Specialisations create differentiators such as skill champions and experts and, thus, team motivators.

We’ve received a positive team response on the program, in the form of better participation and healthy competition with desire for self-improvement.

Observing and Feedback: Feedback helps remove confusion, align expectations for the desired results and sets the platform for improvement. Feedback also is a critical step to coaching.

The Keywords FQA learning program path

At Keywords, our processes are aimed at fast-tracking growth. Thus, all supervisors provide feedback to their direct reports at least once a month. Benefits of ongoing feedback activity includes:

  • Accurate performance evaluation
  • Faster employee growth
  • Better interpersonal (lead->team) relationships and team work
  • Higher employee satisfaction and reduced attrition

Challenges and Uncomfortable tasks: Our evaluation system encourages employees to step out of their comfort zone and work to achieve the next level.

The lead or supervisor coaches and trains the team members to achieve next-level results. This usually requires people stepping out of their comfort zones and taking risks.

This generates two-way growth, by generating healthy levels of difficulty, creativity and knowledge, helping to ensure growth of the entire organisation.

I have found that it’s important to set periodic time slots for coaching, as the efforts may easily drop in the day-to-day grind. Keywords supervisors coach their direct reports at least twice a month.

Feedback and coaching can be powerful tools, to change and develop organisations.  Following are some of the direct benefits:

  • Builds a progressive work environment
  • Strengthens line management
  • Makes it easier to identify challenges and resolutions
  • Leads to increased job satisfaction for employees

Building a path

About 50% of businesses don’t go beyond the five-year mark. Therefore, building a growing organisation should be thought as a marathon and not a sprint.

While most organisations plan for the profit/loss, technology and delivery etc. factors, the human capability to grow is often ignored.

Humans generally resist change when they don’t understand the reasons for it and can’t foresee the outcome and benefits. It might sound obvious but many supervisors often ignore this due to various reasons.

In these instances, the team should be effectively and timely communicated to with the “What” accompanied by “Why” of things.   

The communication can be thought in three states to achieve the goal. This has been explained by taking an example of launching a learning program.

  • Higher level: This includes organisation values, long-term goals and plans, strategy etc. This explains the why of things – e.g. why we want to launch a learning program, what value will it add to the organisation and how does it align to the organisational vision etc.
  • Mid-Level: This is the plan of what we are going to do – e.g. a learning plan or calendar.
  • Lower level: This will be pure tasks that need to be executed to achieve the higher goal e.g. who will be conducting trainings and how?

The key point here is to differentiate between lower-level tasks and larger, organisational goals. At times leaders can become task-focused and may lose track of higher-level goals. Periodic reports and discussion time can be planned to maintain checks and balance.  

Encouraging innovation

Innovation is often misunderstood and often limited to just generating new business ideas. In reality, innovation can be anything that has a positive impact, such as discarding a wasteful activity, improving a process or simply a new and efficient way of doing something.

A good way to encourage innovation is to create platforms and focused forums that encourage independent thinking. At Keywords FQA, we do it in multiple ways:

  • Monthly open houses: Here we generally discourage individual concerns but discuss larger pain points.
  • Focused groups: These can work to improve specific items including quality, facilities and engagement.
  • Peer review sessions: The reviews are production focused. The team takes time out every month to review their work on the project and look for find out improvement areas.
  • Off-sites: Every quarter the entire leadership steps outside their daily roles and spends a day in retrospection. Challenges are jotted down and time is spent discussing and creating solutions. 

Conclusion: Why culture matters

Organisations begin as entities in theory but are brought to life by the shared beliefs and values of their work forces.

When all employees share the same vision and values, this turns into a culture.

Culture underpins the unique identity of an organisation and values of mutual respect, collaboration and higher conduct should be encouraged. Most organisations have these on paper but they are often overlooked in day-to-day of business.

Culture permeates best when it flows from the top down. The best leaders set the example by taking care of their teams and showcasing the importance of (higher) values.

For more information on current open roles within Keywords Functionality QA, visit the Careers section of our website.

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