When I was a kid a army soldier told me, “you are only as strong as your weakest man.”

Recently I was reflecting on this statement in the context of software test teams and planning. I recognize that each member on a test team has a unique skill-set. When I lead teams I try to discover not only what each member is good at (strength) but also what they are not good at (weakness).

During project planning I consider these strengths and weaknesses and try to determine the effect they might have on our testing mission. While strengths are good I’ve found that I tend to pay special attention to each team member’s weaknesses. An individual weakness can translate into a limitation for the entire team which could lead to a failure of the mission. That failure would be due to me over committing the team, functionally setting them up to fail. I try to build my plans around individual limitations and discover paths for success. If I can’t find a path for success then I need to make my stakeholders aware of these limitations and let them know that I’m concerned about whether we can succeed in a given mission as stated.

Like most things it taken a fair amount of time to develop this ability. At times I struggle with it, I think most leaders do but I recognize that this is something my team(s) needs me to be good at. Ultimately they want to succeed and they don’t need me setting them up for failure by ignoring our limitations and weaknesses. Beyond that my stakeholders don’t want any surprises and expect that if we can’t accomplish the mission’s goals then they will know sooner rather than later. So the better I am at this the better we are overall.

So I’ve found that being aware individual weaknesses and planning around it is an interesting way to build team strength. The stronger we are as a team the stronger we are as a company.