How to motivate testers?

This is one of the common questions I receive too many times. One reason I am asked this is that I am always very motivated to present myself as a Software Testing and Quality guy. In fact that’s what I use as my introduction. The other reason for this question is that I have been managing big teams of testers and one of my main job is to keep them motivated as testers. So what is the magic behind?

The rule zero is that you should take pride in whatever work you do. Testing is a great job and it is in no way inferior to other roles in software development process. One of my mentors mentioned to me once that at heart of every great business, there is some mean work that goes in. All that McDonalds do is make burgers and all that Starbucks do is make coffee. Making burger or making coffee can bring you a lot of pride if you do it in great ways like McDonalds or Starbucks do.


(the original photo is here: )

Then the first thing is that Testers or Programmers or Engineers are all human beings. Seriously I mean that 🙂 So any rule that applies on motivating people apply and specially the rules that are related to people involved in Knowledge work apply. So whatever Peter Drucker talked about is relevant and whatever Dan Pink is preaching matters.

Second rule is that Testers need to be treated as Executives and this rule I got from one of my favorite books “Lessons Learned in Software Testing by Kaner, Bach and Pettichord”. To quote the book:

“Lesson 211: Treat your staff as Executives

Different executives have different strengths and interests. Give two executives identical jobs (not tasks, but ongoing jobs), and they’ll give very different performance.

Most testers are executives within Druker’s meaning. Manage them on that basis. Don’t supervise them as though they were factory workers, and don’t spend your time trying to redesign their jobs into the equivalent of factory work. Instead, accept and manage around the fact that they have different strengths and interests.”

Once you know that you are managing Executives, you know your job is not to watch over them or keep looking from their shoulders so as where their time is going and what activities they perform on daily basis. Executives are told what needs to be achieved and then should be left alone to achieve it. The only role that remains is kind of what Board of Directors do: “set directions or vision, provide resources when needed. That’s it.”

Third and last rule which essentially comes from a personal experience is that you should believe that people you are managing are better than you. You need to have an utter belief in their strengths and capabilities that they can do wonders that you can only imagine. This lesson I learned from one of my bad bosses earlier in my career and yes, you learn from each boss whether good or bad. The scenario was that I was constantly reminded that my boss was more knowledgeable than me and the stuff I produce is not quality one and needs lot of reviews. Guess what happened, I lost interest in producing quality stuff and waited for my boss to find lots of issues in my work. It kept my boss happy and kept me demotivated. In later years, when I gained some authorities, I reversed this rule and I celebrated the great work that my team produced. A rule that I got from one of my good bosses says it all as he mentioned it to me once: “you know Majd, at times I am just a cheer leader for my team”.

Do you know more factors that help in motivating testers?


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21 responses to “How to motivate testers?”

  1. Smita says :

    Gr8 post as usual !!


  2. Abdul Aziz says :

    Applies to testers and developers alike 🙂


    • majd says :

      Right Aziz. All of this apply to any Knowledge Worker and motivating one group of people is usually no more different than motivating other group of people.


  3. H Hamid says :

    This was a much awaited post. Thanks for sharing the words of wisdom.


  4. Ehtesham A says :

    Give them food for thought by doing some Proof Of Concept for out of box testing approaches and appreciate them when they really break the system instead of demoralizing them about priority of test scenario they executed. Ideally, testers are meant to define limits of the application by breaking them.


  5. Ali says :

    really great post …. I like this approach “told what needs to be achieved and then should be left alone to achieve it” …


  6. Martin Patton says :

    Enjoyed the post and I totally agree.


  7. rumadak says :

    Great Post! It holds so true!


  8. srinivas kadiyala (S.K.C) says :

    Nice post. But i prefer “boss is a boss (whether he is a bad / good) – i learnt that “they changes as the situation”

    Yes, Testers need to be left alone instead of shoulder surfing the work for each moment.


    • majd says :

      Thanks Srinivas. I am in agreement that ‘boss is boss’. I always respect my boss and respected the bosses mentioned in the post 🙂 The point I have is that once you reach the other side of the table, your experiences help you perform better.


  9. Dwarika Dhish Mishra says :

    Nice post and its really a kind of handbook for bosses who really want to see their team do miracle whatever they are assigned to..But for that some time it is imperative to dig deep in to the problem statement just to juice out the inspiration and interest in to the task but for that everyone should believe in this line “perform actions to inspire others and let them to enrich” and this line is more like “Leading from the front” ..


  10. Farhana says :

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I really like the part ..”Executives are told what needs to be achieved and then should be left alone to achieve it.” I think this is the best way to utilize the strengths of resources.


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