11 Essential Strategies that Every Tech Lead Needs for Balancing Code Quality and Deadlines

2023-8-25 - Michael Colley

3 min read

Tech leads often face pressure from multiple sides. They have to maintain code quality while ensuring that their team meets project deadlines. It's a challenging balancing act, especially when you have junior team members who might require more guidance. One question that often arises is, how should a tech lead approach situations where they feel caught between maintaining the quality of the code and meeting deadlines? A tech lead, especially one who isn't part of upper management, has a unique challenge. They must manage both the quality and velocity of code. Quality might not always be the top priority for upper management, who might focus more on deadlines. However, for a tech lead, the quality of the code is as crucial as meeting the deadlines. Guiding Junior Engineers A common scenario many tech leads face is overseeing junior engineers. These are a few strategies to manage this: Pairing with Senior Members: If there are concerns about the code quality of a junior engineer, consider pairing them up with senior team members. This can be an effective way to mentor and guide them. Don't expect the junior member to come to you for help. Emphasize on Testing: Ensure that the junior engineers are writing detailed test plans and exhaustive test suites. If not, consider reviewing their code only when these criteria are met. A great way to do this is with mandatory checklists like the ones you can build with Pull Checklist. Break Down Code: Encourage the junior engineers to submit smaller PRs. It's easier to review smaller chunks of code, and feedback can be more specific and constructive. Regular Check-ins: Schedule time in. This offers a platform for continuous feedback and guidance, ensuring they don't feel overwhelmed or lost. Through these sessions, you can provide actionable advice, identify areas for improvement, and even engage in pair programming if necessary.

Establishing Team Best Practices To minimize disagreements and maintain a consistent code quality: Team-Level Discussions: Organize team discussions to share knowledge on high-quality PRs and to set clear best practices. By doing this, the team can have a unified understanding of what is expected, reducing potential conflicts in the future. Set Clear Criteria: Define and communicate clear criteria for PR approvals. When expectations are set, it's easier for everyone to align, reducing back-and-forths during code reviews. Feedback Mechanism: Foster a culture where constructive feedback is encouraged. Ensure that team members feel safe to express their concerns and know that their feedback is valued.

Upholding Responsibility and Leadership Being a tech lead is not just about managing code and projects; it's also about leadership and taking responsibility. When faced with difficult situations: Prioritize Standards and Deadlines Equally: While it's essential to uphold coding standards, you should also understand the importance of deadlines. This balance ensures both quality and productivity. Protect Junior Engineers: If a project delay occurs due to a mistake by a junior engineer, consider taking responsibility. By doing so, you create a supportive environment where they can learn without the fear of repercussions. Continuous Mentorship: Reflect on whether you've given junior engineers ample opportunities for growth and learning. Continuous mentoring throughout a project can reduce errors and enhance code quality. Reflect on Choices: While it's essential to meet deadlines, neglecting code quality can have long-term implications. Always weigh the consequences of your choices. Remember, your colleagues and juniors are the ones who will support you in times of performance evaluations and other critical moments in your career.

In conclusion, as a tech lead, your role isn't just to manage but to lead. By nurturing a supportive environment, setting clear expectations, and upholding responsibility, you can effectively navigate the challenges of code reviews, team dynamics, and project deadlines.