Dealing with Late Arriving Pull Requests in Git

Occasionally, teams or team members may submit work but then jump in to adjust and make changes right before the actual deadline. One or more contributors will fall into the habit of adding just one more thing…then another…then another. However, when the whole team falls into the habit of swapping in last-minute additions, it may signify a more significant underlying problem. Could it be the work culture causing issues and leading to a final hour rush on pull requests?

Late arriving pull requests can occur for several reasons, and therefore it’s essential not just to jump to the conclusion that you have an underlying culture issue. It might also be a sign of poor planning, sub-par time estimations, or too much work in progress. You’ll have to dig deeper to find out the root cause of the problem before diving into solving it.

Last Minute Pull Requests: One-offs vs Problematic Work Patterns

If your last-minute pull requests are coming from the entire team, look for a spike in pull requests submitted in bulk near the tail end of a sprint – after the main pull request was already approved. Your engineers making the last-minute pull requests will also show a high level of New Work – a dead giveaway that they are rushing things through last minute. If this is a typical pattern and not a one-off, it’s time to investigate.

Last Minute Means Less Review

If so many pull requests are getting pushed in under the wire to make the deadlines work, less review will likely be done, which is where things can get sloppy. For example, even if a seasoned engineer is submitting the code, the pull requests must be considered risky – even riskier than those offered earlier in the sprint.

Why You Need to Act When You See a Spike in Late Arriving Pull Requests

Once you’ve noticed the spike in activity, you’ll have to decide if you need to give it an extra day or review time. The best short-term fix is to slow things down and not corrupt the review process for the sake of a deadline.

However, in the long term adding “extra days” – even just “here and there” can severely disrupt the project’s overall timeline. You’ll need to check in with your team to address the issue head-on. Ask them about bottlenecks or issues around the end of the sprint. Was the deadline too tight? Are there too many other projects distracting them from hitting the sprint goals? Is there something else in the way the project was arranged that could be causing what might be long-term issues that need to be dealt with? 

Check-in with Your Team

Insights from the team will likely give you answers about how you need to recalibrate the project. For example, there may be process issues that could be improved or eliminated altogether. If there’s stress around the deadline, try doing internal deadlines for projects instead of hitting them externally.

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Are Outside Forces at Work?

Note also if last-minute requests coming from outside the team are the culprit. If there’s an external stakeholder or other manager tripping up your deadlines, you’ll want to investigate that. If that turns out to be the root cause of your last-minute pull request pattern, gather details to show outside stakeholders the impact of their individual requests on the bigger project. Often, it helps to put it into the context of time and money. External stakeholders may see their side projects as just little things; however, they can have a detrimental effect on the overall productivity of the team and the bottom line of the project. Be empathetic and try to understand their needs from their perspective, but remember that, at the end of the day, if you are in charge of a project, you’ll need to protect your team and their progress.

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