Quotes & Notes on “Leading Quality: How Great Leaders Deliver High-Quality Software and Accelerate Growth” by Ronald Cummings-John and Owais Peer

The book: Leading Quality: How Great Leaders Deliver High-Quality

Software and Accelerate Growth

The authors: Ronald Cummings-John & Owais Peer

Engineering and quality leaders do a good job of telling a technical story, such as explaining the testing activities and how they plan to optimize the development process. Unfortunately, most miss the other side of the story, the part that clearly shows how the work they do adds value to their customers and contributes toward business growth.

Similarly, some times the business doesn’t share with the engineering teams what its goals are in a clear manner.

The person in charge of leading quality inside a company can vary widely.

If the person leading quality is not high enough in the hierarchy of the company, this can lead to problems concerning quality.

“Improving QA” has to be more than just eliminating the bottlenecks. It has to be about delivering quality as perceived by the customer.

The focus of QA should always go beyond the quality of the process of delivering software.

A quality narrative is the way people think and talk about quality in a company.

Understanding how to talk about quality by starting with its revenue potential and then discussing savings and risk mitigation is an important step to having people look at quality teams not as a cost center, but as an asset that can help contribute to company growth.

It is important to explain our value in terms that the business understands. A different approach is necessary when talking to the development teams we are working with.

Customer issues impact your company and company issues can impact your career. We call these “the 3Cs.”

This observation might resonate even with people that are not interested in the user experience.

Automation is marketed as a way to perform more testing (i.e., scale) with the same resources.

Everybody seems to want more testing but they are not really interested in investing in it.

When things begin to break, it’s not necessarily a sign that your QA has begun to fail. It could just indicate that your needs have changed and so you need to change your strategy to succeed.

Even in Agile products that we iterate on everything, sometimes we fail to iterate on our quality strategy.

The (quality) bar is even higher for B2B products, especially in mature industries like banking and insurance. Developing an app in an environment like that necessitates moving slower and keeping quality higher before release, despite being in the validation stage.

A good reminder that we need to make distinctions between B2B and B2C products.

Feedback loops help us focus on getting information on product quality to the team as fast as possible….starting by determining what type of feedback you need gives you a better indicator as to what testing type is most suitable.

Improving quality in your company isn’t only about testing. It’s also about having an infrastructure that allows issues to be fixed quickly.

Customers can be more forgiving if the issues they face are fixed fast.

It’s important to note, however, that testing in production doesn’t make sense for every product and isn’t a replacement for doing other forms of testing. It’s just yet another tool to gather information along the continuous testing spectrum.

If testing is information gathering and experimentation, there is no reason not to have a “testing look” on your productive environment.

You can cut your testing time in half and see zero effect on sales or revenue. You can decrease the number of bugs found to nearly nothing and not see a spike in your number of active users. Ultimately, the metrics your testing team focus on should improve overall company growth.

A good growth metric sits at a high enough level that no single team moves it all by themselves.

How many engineering teams have clear growth metrics and even more importantly how many of them have shared metrics?

Create a crystal-clear vision of where you’re going, understand your starting point, and evaluate the multiple paths you can choose that define your strategy.

Leadership skills also play a big role when you want to bring people along and embrace your vision.

Remember, if you’re not confused while thinking through your strategy process, you’re probably not doing it right.


View a full list of the books I have taken notes on, in the Library page.

Quotes & Notes on “Building Successful Communities of Practice” by Emily Webber

The book: Building Successful Communities of Practice

The author: Emily Webber

…training and learning are not the same thing.

Companies and individuals allocate time and money for the “training” but might ignore or forget the “learning”.

Communities of practice create the right environment for

  • social learning,
  • experiential learning, and a
  • rounded curriculum

leading to accelerated learning for members.

Your community will have the best chances of building trust between its members if people have the chance to be physically in the same place and are able to meet face-to-face.

If your community is likely to be distributed over a large distance, think about how they will build trust. Try to find a way for them at least to spend some time together in the same space.

Maybe some video calls between small subgroups of the community could also help, in case travelling is not an option.

As a community matures, it will move on from just sharing knowledge to solving shared problems, using the collective knowledge of the community. This will create better practice.

This is especially important for bigger organisations with multiple projects or even products. A team might solve a problem but nobody else in the organisation is aware of the solution, so they need to re-invent the wheel.

Communities of practice encourage active participation and decision-making by members as opposed to decision-making by the leader or group of leaders.

It would be interesting to see how communities of practice make decisions if the members are separated in fractions. Can they work?

Those who lead a community should set the standards for what “good” looks like within the profession, at various levels.

Even if members of the communities make decisions, it seems that there is always the need for a person or a group of people to lay down the groundwork.

I have found that communities thrive best when there is an understanding of the boundaries around membership. These boundaries provide members with the emotional safety necessary for needs and feelings to be exposed and for intimacy to develop.

The community vision should be

  • aspirational,
  • achievable, and
  • easy to understand.

Having a vision gives the group a shared understanding of why they exist, which helps create common tasks.

From vision, to goals, to tasks.

Goals should be SMART

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Realistic, and
  • Timely.

The community achieving a goal is not the same thing as all the members achieving it as well. It’s up to the ones that accomplished something to bring the ones left behind forward as well.

Make sure you create time for the community to have less-structured meetings where they can discuss things that are on their mind and bring their problems to the community’s safe space.

This might not be directly affecting the community’s existing goals, but might help set new ones.

Make it easy for people to self-identify with what you say about community members, so that they can easily see how it would benefit them.

If a community is to become self-sustaining, leadership needs to be taken on by the group as a whole and not owned by just one person or one small group.

This could nicely transfer to quality. “If a development team is to become self-sustaining, quality needs to be taken on by the group as a whole and not owned by just one person or one small group.”

Communities of practice only exist as long as there is an interest from members in maintaining the group.

If the community’s goals are too big and hard to reach, the benefits might take too long to materialize. Maybe creating “small” goals in analogy with “small” user stories might help sustain the community longer.

Like all good things, communities of practice take a lot of time and effort to get right.


View a full list of the books I have taken notes on, in the Library page.