How do I keep my devs busy while waiting on code review?

February 28, 2022
Don't worry about devs not having enough work. Worry on flow through the system.

I was recently involved in a discussion with a Scrum master who asked this question.

“Last sprint, most of our stories were stuck in queue, waiting for seniors on another team to review them. How can I keep my devs busy while they’re waiting?”

This type of question is extremely common in my experience. Whatever’s causing a delay, we look for ways to stay busy while waiting for delayed items.

Unfortunately, this is the wrong approach.

This is what I told this distressed Scrum master:

Don’t worry about the devs not having enough work.

If every dev is always busy, you’ll have a traffic jam. A highway at full capacity is called a parking lot.

Instead, worry on the smooth flow of work through the system.

If you solve the flow problems, all the devs will have enough work to do anyway. If you focus on giving them work, though, you’ll end up with even more work stuck in queue,causing more blockage, and even more problems than you’re facing right now.

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