The Dangers of Rubber Stamping a Git Pull Request

Rubber stamping involves a developer skimming push request reviews and approving them without a substantial review of the request.

Typically, this happens when a more senior team member submitting code will not be challenged by a reviewer who assumes the work will be good enough. However, this can also become a habit when a team runs up against a deadline. Another typical reason could be that the reviewer simply doesn’t value the review process itself. 

The review process is integral to a successful Git project. Code review underpins Git’s approach to developing projects, and the benefits of reviewing code include:

  • Improved code quality across team members
  • Increased knowledge transfer within teams
  • A higher likelihood of collaboration and mentorship between team members
  • Improved and more innovative solutions to problems when they do arise

That’s why, when an individual submits code for review – no matter how senior or how close to the deadline the code arrives for review, the review process itself needs to be adhered to. Sacrificing short-term outcomes for long-term efficiency means, as a manager, you need to deal with rubber-stamping issues when you see them make sure it doesn’t become an ingrained habit.

Tell-Tale Signs a Developer is Rubber Stamping in Git

If you are concerned there may be rubber-stamping happening within your ranks, look at your review and collaboration reports. Look specifically at your Review Workflow. There, you’ll see the pull requests that opened and closed in a short period of time (and with a shallow level of receptiveness). Keep an eye out for low levels of engagement in your Involvement and Review Coverage KPIs as well. When a review happens after an extended period of time (as opposed to, for example, right after a pull request has been opened), there won’t be the typical communication visible in the comments. If there aren’t comments, the pull request will show as unreviewed.

Another KPI to look into is the Team Collaboration metric. It will showcase the time/energy your team members are allocating to reviewing pull requests over some time. You can watch these reports to manage trends not just in the short term but also in the long term.

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How to Deal with Rubber Stamping 

The review process, as mentioned, is crucial to keeping the integrity of the code high and is an integral part of what it means to be an effective developer. For example, the habit of rubber-stamping tends to become prevalent when the review process itself is considered less important than getting done with a sprint on time.

At the outset of a project, leadership must take the time to nurture the importance of the review process and give recognition to those modeling behaviors that lead to the best possible code being used in the product itself. Therefore, a great way to deal with rubber stamping is to create a work culture where the review process is celebrated and reinforced – and is not an afterthought. Take the time to praise positive behaviors in stand-ups and one-on-ones. Actively look for great reviews and highlight them. This will help to normalize meaningful push request reviews.

If you’ve detected rubber stamping in certain team members, it’s a good time to do some one-on-one coaching. Show them examples of substantial code reviews and work to deconstruct those feedback together. It’s possible a developer just may not understand what a significant code review looks like or that they feel intimidated reviewing the code of a more senior developer. Get to the issue’s root cause and empower them to become more involved in the review process. Monitor how they respond to your feedback as well. Some may take time to adjust. Others may feel immediately empowered to give more substantive feedback. However, with time and coaching, you’ll be strengthening not just their leadership skills. You’ll be making the entire team and the underlying code more robust.

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