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Fostering Effective Reviews Print

Review - The Reality and the Suggested
 
Review is a very important activity that ensures the quality of the work product. It is not an act of creation but an act of examining a finished product with a different perspective to identify shortcomings. We know that everyone acknowledges the act of creation but not often do we appreciate, felicitate and acknowledge a good review. Despite the lack of encouragement in the surrounding environment, a good reviewer ploughs on and pinpoints areas of improvement in a finished work product. Reviewing Software is all the more hard due to its intangible nature. I endeavor in this article to recommend some measures to Project Managers to produce effective reviews in their team based on my experience and observations. Though the suggested measures are generic and can be applied to projects across industries and domains, some of the examples are specific to Software Industry.


Imagine that the reviewer in your team is felicitated as the most effective reviewer in your organization. Imagine the gait and the feelings inside when the reviewer walks to the Podium to receive the coveted Prize. Dream about the roar of applause, the reviewer's speech which is going to highlight the positive environment that encourages reviews, the cheers from your team, colleagues and everyone. The entire project team will be proud when your organization's CEO appreciates how effective review helped to enhance the reputation of your company and how pleased the Customer's were with the quality of work.

Wouldn't every Project manager want such a reviewer in the team? Also, isn't it the responsibility of Project managers to create such reviewers by nurturing a motivating environment or culture to ensure high standards of quality?


Review Credit System

Quantification of review can be done by incorporating a credit or points system for review observations. Both Positive and Negative credits should be established with unambiguous criteria to distinguish them. As observed in any new process or change adoption and shown in Figure 1 below, there will be a steep learning curve till the process becomes a habit.

project reviews

 
Review Credits Categorization


Review observation categorization should be done based on the process maturity levels as shown in Figure 2 and 3 below.

 

project reviews

 

project reviews


Events that determine Positive and Negative credits for the Reviewer and Creator are represented in a typical 2-dimensional graph above. A Creator is one who creates the work product that is to be reviewed and Reviewer is one who reviews the work product.

Bulls Eye - Any observation that a Reviewer records and the cause of the issue is identified to be at the current phase of the project or the previous phase of the project. If the observation is due to a slip in the previous phase, then the Reviewer of the previous phase gets negative credits under Slip category. For example, a coding mistake caught during the coding phase itself or a design mistake caught in coding.

  • Fetches Positive credits for the Reviewer who recorded the observation
  • If the cause of the error is in the previous phase and the error seeped through, then the Reviewer who let the error slip through gets Negative credits (this is covered under Slip category)
  • Depending on the maturity level of the process, the Creator may or may not get Positive credits for acknowledging the observation


Slip - An observation that is identified at a later phase and not at the phase it originated. In other words, the defect seeped through. For example, a design error that is caught during coding and not during design review.

  • Negative credits for the Reviewer who let the error to slip through


False Alarm - An observation that was identified by the Reviewer was negated and explained by the Creator to the satisfaction of Reviewer.

  • Positive credits for the Creator
  • Depending on the maturity level of the process, the Reviewer may or may not get Negative credits


Bullied - An observation identified by the Reviewer at its originating phase but was overridden by the Creator without any satisfactory explanation. For e.g., someone in higher authority doesn't pay attention to the observation made and decides to ignore and overrides the Reviewer.

  • Negative credits for the Creator
  • Depending on the maturity level of the process, the Reviewer may or may not get Negative credits

 
Credits system for various categories described above is tabulated below.

 S.No  Category

 Error

Originating

Phase

Reviewer

 Creator

 +ve Credits  -ve Credits  +ve Credits  -ve Credits
 1  Bulls Eye
 Same Phase
 X    X  
 Previous Phase(s)
 X    X  
 2  False Alarm  Not Applicable
     X  
 3  Slip   Not Applicable    X    
 4  Bullied   Not Applicable        X
Review Credits Table - Initial Adoption Period



S.No Category

Error

Originating

Phase

Reviewer

Creator

+ve Credits -ve Credits +ve Credits -ve Credits
1 Bulls Eye
Same Phase
X      
Previous Phase(s)
X      
2 False Alarm Not Applicable
  X X  
3 Slip Not Applicable   X    
4 Bullied Not Applicable   X   X

Review Credits Table - Process Matured

Review Credits Calculation

 

For each of the categories above, Project Manager can assign appropriate credits or points. An indicative sample score sheet is shown below:

S.No
Category
 Points
 1  Bulls Eye
 +2
 2  Slip  -4
 3  False Alarm
 -2 or 0
 4  Bullied  -2 or 0

 

 The review credits accumulated by the reviewer for each milestone is the total sum of the individual credits earned for each work product that was reviewed. For example, if a reviewer records three 'Bulls Eye' observation and one 'Slip' for a given milestone then
    Total Review Credits = 2 [3 (Bulls Eye) * 2 + 1 (Slip) * -4]
 
Resistance to Review Process

Most of us might have encountered resistance to the observations raised by us as a reviewer. In a traditional process, the Creator never gets any positive points or acknowledgment for incorporating review observations. In some cases, it might work against the Creator as the work product was not finished with due care. Consequently, the Creator either becomes indifferent or aggressive and the quality of work falls below standards. Similarly, in a traditional process the Reviewer never gets any positive points or acknowledgment for identifying review observations. Categorization of review observations and the review credit system clearly establishes the scenarios that are favorable and detrimental to the organization in ensuring quality as outlined below:

Win-Win- The category 'Bulls Eye' is the only one that earn Positive credits to both the Reviewer and the Creator. It indicates that review is not a fault finding mission and the Creator should be open enough to accept feedback which improves the quality of work.

Lose-Lose- The category 'Bullied' earns Negative credits to both the Reviewer and the Creator because the intention of Review was missed and only prejudice was allowed to win.
Fruits of Review Credit System

  • Assigning numerical scores for review observation quantifies the review and removes all the ambiguities  associated with it
  • Provides clarity to the Reviewer and establishes the fact that a Reviewer must secure total positive credits
  • Creates a motivating environment for the Reviewer, Creator and the review process as a whole by means of quantification which can be utilized as measurement factor(s) for determining performance and appreciation
  • Assists the Project Manager in identifying people who possess good reviewing skills
  • Based on the credit system, awards can be given to Reviewers as 'Most Effective Reviewer' and Creators as 'Listening Creator' which will signify the importance of being open to feedback and show the act of reviewing in positive light
  • Improves the team spirit




Ramkumar. K (c) 2008


About the Author

I am Ramkumar and I am a certified PMP since Jan 2007. I work for i-flex solutions which is recently renamed to Oracle Financial Services. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own and don't reflect that of the Organization. I manage medium to large projects in BFSI space and enjoy thinking, mulling and exploring ideas at work and this is my earnest attempt to give my ideas form and shape. I can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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