Recently in retrospectives of one of the scrum teams, one team member had some strong opinions about guidelines that were defined for code reviews. Besides what to review and how to review, the guidelines also had some instructions on who should review which features/stories’ code. He strongly felt that the reviewers for his stories didn’t add much value, the code reviews waited longer for feedback, and the reviewer didn’t seem to have much context, so didn’t add much value. He felt that his design reviewers or his colleagues working on the same story should have been the peer reviewers!
I am sure anyone will have the following questions –
- Who stopped him from going to his design reviewer and his colleagues, who he thought, were better reviewers?
- Guidelines are just “guide” “lines”, isn’t it? They are not expected to constrain us, right?
- Should I crib about the defined process in a retrospective or should I instead, showcase myself as an example, who follows the spirit and intent of the process?
- And then, am I really self-organized, when I like my freedom as a developer? ☺
Also, let’s see why first of all we needed the guidelines. When you have a team of 70-80 people working on the same release, in absence of any guidelines, the following happens (past experience of all of us)
- Some people are frustrated since anybody and everybody comes to them for reviews. Some people, hardly get any reviews!
- Somebody reviews just the basic syntax etc. While somebody reviews the implementation of functionality, best use of design patterns, clean code practices, etc. So, there is no consistency between the 2 reviews.
- When you say that reviews should “add value”, what does it mean to you vis-à-vis me?
- When you give feedback on such superficial reviews, some people claim that “well, I didn’t know that we expected all of this to be covered in reviews!”
- Reviews will wait, so timely check-ins don’t happen, and that’s a waste! So, how soon review feedback should be received, needs to be defined.
So, in absence of any guidelines, there can be chaos, a lack of shared understanding, lack of consistency. However, guidelines are only intended to be just “guide” “lines” (मार्गदर्शक) and not rule books (“नियम”)!
However, with formal guidelines in place, some people somehow start thinking that “this is what I have to do”! And they almost stop thinking and follow the law! Although, that’s just a “human thing”, then, having or not having guidelines, either way there is a problem ☺
The intent of any “guidelines” is just to show us a “way”, to define some structure. They are not supposed to be rigid or “cast in stone”. The intent of reviews is to seek “valuable” feedback from another pair of eyes. An individual need not get blindfolded by defined rituals. And nothing can replace individuals and their close interactions!
In the retrospective, if the same individual had said that he worked with a certain person, even though not defined in guidelines, to get a valuable review done, then it would have been a much more enriching “reflection” on what we learned from last 10 days and how we avoided some waste, right? The team also would have taken away some “positive energy” from it, rather than just a negative crib, right? ☺
As a whole team, let’s have another look at the very first line of an agile manifesto, which says that while processes and guidelines are important, we should always value individuals and their close interactions more!
It’s just common sense! And yet, can you write a “common sense” also as a “guideline”? ☺
Written by SPC Sachin Dhaygude