A Value System for Code Reviews, and How to Scale Them for a Large Project
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Roy Osherove in First Steps during chaos, Growing People

One of my customers wanted my help is increasing their code quality.
When I spoke with the developers the following conversation happened several times:

Me: "Wow, this code... how many lines long is this method?"
Dev: "about 700. Yeah I know"
Me: "Have you tried to refactor some of it?"
Dev: "oh.. noooo."
Me: "What if we just extract this small part over here , these couple of lines, to a method with a good name?"
Dev: "Yeah, let's not.  If I do that then I have to do a code review on that, and that can take 24 hours to 3 days. The architects are so busy.. too much of a big deal. I'd rather focus on what I'm doing"

When I went to the architects I heard from them how overworked they were. They meant well, but 2 architects on 30 devs, with more of their own stuff to do as well.. it just didn't scale.

I went to the chief Architect and told him what I saw. I told him I felt that the way the code review process worked (reviews are done through a tool, and take very long) is actually deterring people from changing the code for the better. He was surprised to hear it. After all, they had instituted mandatory code reviews to increase code quality. So we talked about what we can do.

Here's the plan we setup in place:

We will organize a team meeting of all the architect where we will agree on some basic values of what we want from code reviews. I noted that the following values worked for me:

A code review is successful if:


We decided to experiment for a couple of months with doing reviews this way:


In this way we:

  1. Make the reviews more effective since they are in person
  2. Less bureaucratic since they happen very quickly
  3. This also  makes developers less afraid to change code and get feedback on it since it doesn't take a long time
  4. We make more developers able to be code reviewers, thus making the code review process more scalable. Anyone can review anyone's code within a couple of months.

I wrote more about code reviews in the face of horrible code quality here.



Article originally appeared on Elastic Leadership (http://5whys.com/).
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