Talk About Quality

Tom Harris

Monitoring for Encouragement

with one comment

When you deploy a new process, one question that comes up is, “Will it last?” And the usual solution is monitoring — recordkeeping and reporting to track how it’s going. But do we really want to check up on everyone to make sure it’s really happening, and going smoothly, and producing results? Or better to just let people alone so they don’t feel that somebody’s watching them?

The concern stems from people’s thinking of monitoring as a negative thing. If monitoring shows problems, will their managers criticize them? If monitoring shows fewer results than expected, will people think the process isn’t working?

But monitoring can be a positive tool if used correctly. Promise yourselves that:

  • If monitoring shows the new activity not happening enough, managers will take that as a signal to ask their people what they need help with. A manager’s job is to provide what his people need to do their jobs — perhaps something needed to make it happen is missing. Ask and find out.
  • If monitoring shows the activity not producing enough results, wait! Focus first on the results that are there. Seek out the people and groups that produced them, and compliment them. When people are encouraged and rewarded (even just with positive attention), they’ll do more, as well as feel more comfortable asking for help if they need it.

While we’re at it, monitoring does not have to be complicated. Here’s an example, in this case, for code reviews. Something everyone believes in, but can be hard to keep going.

Make yourself a spreadsheet with just four columns: Scope of Planned Review, Planned Review Date, Did it Happen? and Number of Issues Found.

For the first good while, all you have to do is make a check mark for each planned code review that actually happened, and find out how many issues were found. Yes, there’s a lot more to code review than these two basic measurements. But as a tool for help and encouragement, they’re all you need.


Written by Tom Harris

August 30, 2006 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Agile, Code Review, Metrics

One Response

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  1. Hi Tom,

    When you talk about introducing a new process, you should take into account the process might fail to actually solve the problem.

    So, to the two bullets you’ve listed I would add a third one: after giving the process a fair chance, and the required resources and support, one should consider whether the process is really optimal for the problem at hand.

    Clearly, this should be done based on monitoring. This does not suggest that monitoring in that sense is negative. It is to just use to verify that the chosen solution is indeed the right one.


    Lidor Wyssocky

    August 31, 2006 at 10:46 pm

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