Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

by Tanmay Vora on January 19, 2010

Last year, in November, I posted 12 posts on QUALITY in the form of QUALITYtweets, on Active Garage. It didn’t quite seem right to stop just there… when there is so much still left to say about QUALITY!

Here are the first twelve posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture

#QUALITYtweet Make every review meeting a learning

experience by reviewing the product

and process, not people.

We create, we review and we make it better. Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The core purpose of any review process is to “make things better” by re-examining the work product and find out anomalies or areas of improvements that the creator of the work product was not able to find.

Establishing a good review process in an organization requires management commitment and investment, but for returns that it generates, the effort is totally worth it. In software world, a lot of emphasis is given to formal inspections, but they work best when a formal process marries with a set of common sense rules. Here they go:

1) Reviewing early

Reviews in early phase of product development means that findings are less costly to resolve. The later defects are found, more expensive it gets to resolve those defects.

2) Staying positive

The art of review is to report negative findings (problems) without losing the positive undertone of communication. Negative or destructive criticism will only make the process more burdensome. Stay positive and keep the process lightweight.

3) Keeping review records

When a lot of time is spent on reviewing, it makes sense to track the findings to closure. Recording the finding helps you to effectively track the closure and trends.

4) Reviewing process, not the person

Always question the process and not the person. Human beings are bound to make mistakes, which is why reviews are required. So accept that mistakes will happen. How can we have a more effective process so that these mistakes are not repeated? That is the critical question.

Imagine that Bob is the reviewer of John’s work product and consider the following conversations:

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you. Again this time, you have not implemented the architecture correctly. You committed the same mistakes that were also found in the registration module earlier.”

OR

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you and your team. We have found some anomalies in the architecture implementation. I just wanted to know if the team had undergone the workshop on our standard architecture. If not, we should invite our systems architect to take a small workshop on system architecture so that the team has better clarity on how it can be best implemented.”

Two conversations with a totally different outlook. The first conversation tries to blame the producer where as the second conversation tries to assess the process and take corrective actions.

5) Training and more training

Reviewers can make huge mistakes if they are not trained. If you don’t invest in training your review teams, you cannot expect them to do it right, the first time.

6) Reviewing iteratively

Review often. During the course of product building, product needs may change. New ideas may be implemented. Keep review process constant amidst all these changes. Discipline is the key.

7) Reviewing the process of reviewing

Are we reviewing it right? Are we reviewing the right things? Periodically, assess the results and the benefits of having a review process. Assess how reviews helped improve product quality. In process assessment, also identify if people are heavily relying on reviews. It that is the case, it is a bad sign.

Success of any process depends on 2 E’s – Efficient and Enjoyable. Same holds true for your review processes. Review is a control mechanism, and hence the focus on getting it right the first time is still very important. A good review is just an internal quality gate that ensures that internal customers (reviewers) are happy with the final product. If your internal customers are happy, your external customers will be happy too!

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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