At some point in your career, you're going to utter the words, "it's not my job!".

The question of where your job begins and ends is something we all have to deal with. But this attitude can be very detrimental to productivity, customer satisfaction and team morale.

As a member of a software testing team, you will encounter situations where your superiors or coworkers make requests that you do not feel fall under your job description. You may also be in the position of asking someone to do something, only to find they respond by telling you, "it's not my job!".

With the introduction of the Agile delivery of software, individual ownership has become even more important and it’s essential for all of the team to take on responsibilities and ‘muck in’.


It’s a team issue...

If there is an 'it's not my job!' mentality within your organisation, even if it's limited to a single person or a few people out of a large team, it will have repercussions for everyone.

This is particularly apparent during a period of Agile transformation, where there’s a need to change the focus of the organisation’s culture. A poor attitude held by individuals during this period can have a significant effect on the process and as a result, the team as a whole.

It's important that you find a way to work with your team to correct the issue - remember, it's about the whole team.


The problem with an 'it's not my job!' mentality...

It's an easy thing to say and even to believe, but the 'it's not my job!' mentality can cause a lot of problems for a software testing team.

It’s symptomatic of a wider organisational issue where responsibility is diffused and compartmentalised, making it easy for unforeseen issues to ‘not quite’ fall within the remit of a particular individual or team. This can quickly have a knock-on effect that leads to tension within the team.

The atmosphere created within the team will also lead to poor communication which can very easily cause problems, expensive mistakes and delays down the line. All of this undermines the effectiveness of the team as a whole and is contrary to the fundamentals of the Agile process.

Agile helps us outline the difference between a 'job' and a 'role'...

The majority of people don't give a great deal of thought to the difference between their job and their role.

In fact, many people see the two as interchangeable. This can lead to issues in traditional frameworks, where individuals focus on their perception of their ‘job’ which can exclude tasks that don’t fall within that perception.


Agile allows us to approach the situation differently.

Regardless of their seniority or experience, every employee at an organisation has the same 'job' (namely to ensure the company achieves its objectives and prospers). Every individual is expected to contribute to the efforts of the team to ensure its success.

The individual 'roles' within the team differ, however, as each member of the team contributes different skills and does different things in order to ensure that success is achieved.

When we consider that a person's job is simply to contribute to the team and ensure it wins, the nature of their contribution is irrelevant; they must simply contribute.

Agile enables this as individual ownership is established at the role level (where it is flexible and transferable), rather than at the job level (where it can be rigid and cause friction).

With a focus on the team’s eventual success and a more flexible adoption of individual roles, organisations can foster a much more effective team culture.


The importance of managing expectations and the big picture...

Whether it’s the team’s perceptions of their own roles or stakeholder perceptions of what the project will deliver, it’s critical that expectations are managed.

Shifting goalposts can be a painful source of frustration for everyone involved, so acceptance of the idea of fluidity (shifting roles, shifting deliverables) is critical to Agile cultural implementation.

Embracing this habit of flexibility and ownership helps encourage an Agile mindset in your team and that leads on to unforeseen problems being embraced and effectively managed, rather than simply being shrugged off with, “it’s not my job”.

Author: 2i Testing