Making Pull Requests Work for Your Team: How to Minimize Idle Time
3 min read
Pull requests (PRs) have become an integral part of the software development process. They allow teams to collaborate on code and review changes before they are merged into the main branch. However, this new gate between merging and releasing introduces idle time into the process that wasn't there before. And that idle time can be a real flow killer for developers.
In this blog, we'll explore the pull request paradox, discuss how it affects productivity, and suggest ways to minimize idle time. We'll also look at the importance of active communication and pair programming in the PR process. Let's get started.
What is the Pull Request Paradox?
The pull request paradox is the idea that introducing a gate between merging and releasing introduces idle time into the process that wasn't there before. This idle time can have a negative effect on productivity, as developers are forced to wait for their PRs to be reviewed before they can move on to the next task.
According to a recent case study, a team of developers at a large software company found that the average time spent waiting for PR reviews was 3.5 days. This idle time resulted in decreased productivity and missed project deadlines. The team also found that the longer a PR sat idle, the harder it was for the developer to get back into the flow state they were in when they first wrote the code. This led to decreased code quality and increased difficulty in debugging production issues.
How Can We Minimize Idle Time?
Idle time leads to reduced situational awareness, lower code quality, wasted effort, and missed commitments. It can also make work less predictable and increase cognitive load when revisiting code. So how can we minimize idle time in the PR process?
Here are a few suggestions:
Implement regular review checkpoints: Establishing regular review checkpoints can help ensure that PRs are reviewed in a timely manner. This will help keep the process moving and minimize idle time.
Set clear expectations for review turnaround times: Establishing clear expectations for review turnaround times will help ensure that PRs are reviewed in a timely manner.
Use tools to streamline the process: There are a variety of tools available to streamline the PR process. These tools can help automate certain aspects of the process, such as code reviews and merging.
Encourage active communication: Active communication between developers and reviewers can help ensure that PRs are reviewed in a timely manner.
Consider pair programming or synchronous review sessions: Pair programming or synchronous review sessions can help reduce idle time by allowing developers to review each other's code in real-time.
The pull request paradox can be a real flow killer for developers. Idle time leads to reduced situational awareness, lower code quality, wasted effort, and missed commitments. But by addressing the pull request paradox and minimizing idle time, teams can improve their productivity and deliver value to customers more quickly.
We've discussed ways to minimize idle time in the PR process, such as implementing regular review checkpoints, setting clear expectations for review turnaround times, using tools to streamline the process, encouraging active communication, and considering pair programming or synchronous review sessions. By taking these steps, teams can ensure that their PRs are reviewed in a timely manner and that their developers are able to stay in the flow state.