Saturday, May 22, 2010

How to review better?

We often get artifacts such as test plans, test cases, test results or bug reports to review. This is especially true for those of us in the leading or senior positions. Do you wish to be a good reviewer? If so, try NOT to fall into the following categories as others have in the past.

1. The Silent Reviewer
You submit your material for review. There is NO response from the reviewer. You decide to follow-up a bit later. Still, there is NO response. What the Silent Reviewer is not telling you is the reason they are not able to perform the review. Often times, the Silent Reviewer assumes that you know everything that you need to provide them to do the review. Diplomatically coaxing the reviewer to share the reason can be helpful. The trouble is that not many authors think of this approach or take the necessary time to ease the review along.
A dangerous version of this type of reviewer is the Silent and Angry Reviewer. They do not perform the review but tend to form a poor opinion about you.

2. The To-and-Fro Reviewer
You submit your material for review and look forward to completing other work. Little do you realize that you are going to be spending a lot of time with this particular reviewer. The To-and-Fro Reviewer takes one look at the material and shoots off a message e.g. You have not used the correct template OR You have not provided a specific piece of information. Your reply results in request for still more information or maybe, a review comment. You feel confused and exhausted after a long chain of communication with this reviewer. The trouble is the To-and-Fro Reviewer is performing the review on their whims and fancies.

3. The Opinionated Reviewer
You request for a review and what do you receive? A personal comment on your lack of knowledge, lack of competence or something basic that you have missed or done incorrectly. You feel bad after hearing from the Opinionated Reviewer because they are not focusing on the material but rather on you. You may also find the Opinionated Reviewer transform into another category after blaming you personally.

4. The Insensitive Copier
The Insensitive Copier wants to look good in the eyes of others. Even when they do a thorough and useful review, you find that they have copied their review comments to your manager, their manager, colleagues and the Head of the unit. Their perception of the quality of your work is now visible at the high levels. Worse, they may ask you to address their review comments immediately. If you do not address the review comments promptly, you risk looking lazy in the eyes of the management. So, you have to re-schedule your other (important) work and tackle the review comments pronto.

5. The Skimpy Reviewer
This reviewer provides you little value. Maybe, it took them less than two minutes to review your work. You get comments like:
a. It seems alright at first glance.
b. The formatting seems to be off in places.
c. I am sure that you have done a thorough job. Don't have any review comments as of now.

6. The "Busy" Reviewer
This reviewer performs the review, even to a high standard, but in their own time. What good are review comments on your test cases when testing is mid-way and there is little or no time to update the test cases? In extreme cases, you receive their review comments after the event is over e.g. the release has been deployed in production. There is little use for the review comments except as learning for the future.

If you do not agree with the above, try to remember the time when you were at the receiving end of one of the above types of reviewers? How did you feel after the review? Drained, exhausted, bitter?

If the review is not too important or you are too busy to do it well, you should politely decline it giving the genuine reason. However, if a review is important, you should do it well. Schedule an available time for your review. Make sure that you have all the required material, do the review and pen your review comments using your knowledge and wisdom. Go through your review comments and make sure that they are professional, factual and focus on the material (and not on the author). And please, communicate your review comments promptly giving sufficient time to the author to address them correctly.