Code reviews

I have mixed feelings about code reviews.

On one hand, they can help with spotting mistakes and improving design. Another perspective can improve code, I totally get that.

On another hand, code reviews are disruptive roadblocks in my (and everybody else’s) workflow.

Here’s a common scenario:

I make a change to solve a problem (let’s call it A), create a pull request, wait for the build pipeline to succeed, and ask for a review.
Then I have to wait for the review, so I switch context to do some other task (let’s call it B).
The reviewer probably wasn’t just sitting there doing nothing; they also get disrupted by the review and need to switch context from whatever they were doing. Not great.
While I just focused on the problem B, I got pinged by the reviewer that he approved A. But something else just got merged into master and I have to rebase and solve some conflicts. So I need to switch completely from B back to A. Again, not great.
I solve the conflicts, wait for the pipeline, switch back to B while the pipeline runs, then ping the reviewer, then work on B again while waiting for the review, then I get pinged, and finally I merge A. Ooff.
So now I can switch for good to the task B. I realize that I have to rebase after A got merged, and have some more conflicts to solve. Finally, I create a pull request… and the whole cycle repeats.

Of course, often there are more roadblocks: some major changes are requested by the reviewer; then the reviewer is not accessible, so you need to chase somebody else, and they have their own opinions about what you should change; the flaky pipeline makes you re-trigger it half the time, adding more context switching.

It’s horrible. From what I see in most teams, people get used to this kind of flow and no longer realize how disruptive it is.

But I can’t. I just can’t stop imagining how much more could be done with more efficient process.

What are the alternatives?


Almost every time somebody mentions growth in business context, they mean increasing the number of employees. Why?

It seems to be a pretty arbitrary dimension, especially taking into account that headcount isn’t the primary purpose of business. Making money is (at least in for-profits)!

There are big downsides of growing headcount:

  • You have to pay more in salaries
  • You get less efficient
  • You need more coordination
  • The company gets (more) hierarchical, with people at the bottom getting further from the vision, and managers on the top further from the actual work getting done.
  • You have more work in progress (which is bad) and it’s harder to change direction

There are other ways to improve the business that are less prominent:

  • Improve efficiency
  • Increase focus: drop your worst customers and products.
  • Make people that already work for the company more happy, efficient and loyal.