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Code Review and Under Stress Teams

Nowadays, being agile is a trend. All the projects are agile in their own sense and of course each task needs to be reviewed. Today I would like to write about the review step.
The code review step is the process when a person looks over the code and tries to find mistakes that were missed by the developer that wrote that code. There are different ways how reviews are made. Normally, in big teams the review is made separately, without pair programing or similar things.
Because people don’t make the code review as they should, the value of this process decreases. In the end the management will realize that there is no value in code reviews and they will stop allocating time for this.

Why did they end up with this bad idea?
Because THE developers that are doing the reviews are not doing it right.
For example when the developer doesn’t have time for all tasks and is using the review time to finish other tasks. In this case the review will not be made. In the best case scenario they will only look over the code for 2-3 minutes. We will end up with a task that was not reviewed.
Another case is when the review is made because you have to do it. In this case you can end up with funny situations like a task that doesn’t contains any change sets is moved from review state to ready for tests. Even if theoretically the task contains some code changes (the developer assigned the change set to a wrong task id). For me this is a sign that the review will not be made by the team.    
The review time consumes a lot of resources and because the review is not made any more the management team will not see the value of it. They will still have major bugs; the quality of code is not good and so on.
What we could do in this case? How can we improve the process?
As one of my friend would say: KILL the team – they need to suffer! Pair programing is nice, but is not possible in all the situations.
Of course this is not a solution and we need to think at something that could motivate the team. The developers and PM should talk and see why the reviews are not made. There are a lot of reasons but in a team with a lot of good developers, the main reason I expect to be the TIME. Developers should require real time for review and not only virtual time.
Also, reviewing a sprint backlog item can hide mistakes. Reviewing a product backlog item could be more useful. To understand the real problem and the context, there are times when looking only on small task will not help understand the problem. More and more often I encourage this practice, because is more easily to see the real problems of the current solution (see next paragraph).
Educate the team how a review needs to be made. A code review is not only code styling review – filed name, class name, method name and things like that. When making a review we should look over other things like unit tests – Does the current implementation has unit tests? How the current implementation is integrated in the solution? Is the current solution good?
If you end up in this situation, I would not remove the review time. I would try to motivate team and why not change the rules of the game. An interesting solution for this problem would be to change the owner of a task from the person how implemented to the one that makes the review. In this way the person that makes the review will know that after he will mark the task as OK, he will be owner and responsible for the it.

Comments

  1. I think also the management (team leads, PMs etc..) are responsible in this case: they should understand the role of a code review and (more importantly) understand the value of code refactoring afterwards - more often than not this is why the developers loose interest in code reviews - the managers see no value in this activity and perceive the time spend in code review and refactorings as time that should be "hidden" from the client ("the client should not find out that we are spending time on code reviews") :)

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