Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Importance of Effective Communication in Management

Effective management communication is of paramount importance in the success of any organisation because it creates a mutual understanding environment between the management and its employees. It gives a sense of direction to the workers as they now understand what they are to achieve through good communication. Directly, it also helps in increasing the employee's productivity.

Historically, investigation into problems experienced by an organisation has shown that a breakdown in the communication process has been a major component of this.

The first step in good communication is to listen effectively. Today’s trend is away from top-down management, where decisions and policies are proclaimed from above. As good managers we now consult a lot more with our teams, using them as a resource for information and suggestions. Effective listening is based on having the trust of the people we are speaking to. People may not offer their true opinions when they are wary about how they will be received. So being a good communicator means winning the trust of those around you. It also means being able to foster a work environment where people treat each other fairly, where they respect each other’s opinions and where there is a minimum of anti-social behaviour such as backbiting or rumour mongering. Bullying or harassment of any kind builds walls in a workplace. It will stunt communication, shut down co-operation and hurt efficiency.

Consultation is not only a good way to get ideas on business strategy, it is also a way of making sure that when we do decide on policies everyone feels like they have been involved. Our teams will be able to implement policies more effectively if they have been involved in their formulation. They will be more familiar with the issues - we will have dealt first-hand with any misgivings they may have.

Good communication is essential to building a cohesive and effective team. These skills are essential to managing the performance of team members and a key part of managing individual employee performance. If we have good communication skills, we will know how to give clear feedback on performance while not denting people’s self-esteem. They enable us to work more closely with our team members, determine personal goals that will suit them and help them to work towards those goals. Team morale tends to be higher in a workplace where communication is good. People feel more in control when they have all the relevant facts and they are warned of issues well in advance. They are likely to feel more confident and secure when they know where an organisation is headed, where they have the information to plan their medium and long-term future. The more people feel in control, the lower their stress levels tend to be. In addition good communication generally means being open.

I feel it extremely important to have a good relationship with individual employees and thus I have weekly 1-1s with members of my team where we discuss their own personal and company goals and any ideas and suggestions they may have. These discussions also help us set the boundaries for what our work place deems as acceptable behaviour whilst maintaining a professional and assertive tone in an atmosphere which is non aggressive and without conflict. We feel this approach enhances the individual’s self esteem and job satisfaction and sense of being part of our organisation.

Basically, our skills as communicators are felt in nearly all of our business dealings. If we and our teams communicate well, we maximise efficiency. We find out about issues earlier and can deal with them without adding further complications or misunderstandings. Having good communications skills in a business is as important as the other major components that make up a successful business, such as its purchasing, sales and accounts departments. This contributes to a faster flow of information and in turn potentially can save us time and money.

Written by:  Mike Morris, QA and Support Manager, DSCallards

Bring QA In From The Start?

In software development, the software quality assurance team (hereafter ‘QA’) are often seen in a variety of different lights across the industry and organisations.

Some might see the QA process as a hindrance to the smooth running of the development lifecycle, or a necessary evil to be endured prior to product release. Others might see the QA team like a caged animal waiting to be unleashed and to be wheeled out at the last minute to devour the impending feast that is a code-complete, but untested, release from development.

However, in order to get true value from QA, the team needs to be introduced right from the start of development – when the ink is still wet on the requirements document.

Research has long shown that introducing the QA team to the project earlier in the software development life cycle can lead to a significant reduction in defect cost.

Why is this important? In 2002, a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that “software bugs, or errors, are so prevalent and so detrimental that they cost the U.S. economy an estimated $59.5 billion annually, or about 0.6 per cent of the gross domestic product…”[1].

This undoubtedly shows that we need to do everything we can to reduce the cost of defects, but how is this achieved? Leading software testing author Rex Black, President of the International Software Testing Qualifications Board, has written in detail about the economics of testing, where it has been proven that cost of finding and fixing defects increases significantly over time:

See footnote 2 below.

So, as shown in the graph above, bringing the QA team in early in the software development life cycle to identify defects in the requirements and design documentation can significantly reduce the overall cost of defects. It can cost up to 10-100 time more to fix a defect in live use than if it were found in the requirements – the economics speak volumes.

Despite the evidence above, this is not the only motivation for including the QA team as early as possible. Within the QA team here at DSCallards, we have noticed another significant benefit.

Being included at the business requirements stage and in meetings with user representatives allows QA team members to start to get to grips with the business domain that the software product resides in.
This allows testers to obtain invaluable business and domain specific knowledge, which often proves vital in designing accurate test cases to exercise complex business/user scenarios.

The act of designing these business-driven test cases often also identifies gaps (or ‘defects’) in the requirements documentation that other members of the requirements review team cannot see.

In summary, involving the QA team early in the software development life cycle may not only reduce defect cost (as widely recognised throughout the industry), but can also improve the understanding of the software application’s business domain within the QA team.

So why not bring in QA from the start? You never know - you may strike gold!
Written by Sam Massey, Software Tester, DSCallards

[1] NIST Press Release – Software Errors Cost US Economy $59.5 Billion Annually -
[2] What is the cost of defects in software testing? ISTQB Exam -