How to enforce mediocrity

When I’m not running to work, I cycle. And I’m one of the fastest on the route. Other cyclists? I breeze past them – you’ve seen Sir Chris Hoy in the velodrome, you can picture it. (Fortunately he trains in Manchester, and isn’t usually on my route to and from work.)

And then I come to a traffic light, and I wait…and they catch up. The light changes and I’m off! Across the junction and away…for 30s until the next traffic light.  In fact, the thing which affects my time to and from work most is how I hit the traffic lights.  With 30s between lights, and 2-3 minutes cycle, I spend much more time waiting than actually cycling.

Now imagine if instead of cycling, you had teams developing, and instead of traffic lights you had phase reviews. If your reviews are monthly, that doesn’t much affect teams working in 3-month increments. Worst-case it will add a third to their time (taking it to 4 months).

It seriously affects the team working in 1-week increments. If they’re lucky they’ll hit the phase review at the end of the week. If not, they might have to wait four times as long for the approval as they did for doing the work itself.

If you tune your reviews to your development cycle, and hold reviews as soon as the work is done, you may have more review sessions, but each one will be shorter and you’ll complete more work. On the other hand, if you batch together a whole load of reviews into (say) a monthly session, your time reviewing may be less overall, but all your development will be slowed down.

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