How to get your team to adopt your coding standards

What’s the best way to sell coding standards to your developer team? Simple. Take a page from the best sales professionals. Find the problems your team already has and show how coding standards will help.

Step 1: Find the current coding problems

Before you mention coding standards to your team, discover the coding issues they have. You can find this out by looking at the following points:

  • Think back to what your developers complain about. Are they frustrated by integrations that keep failing with other services? Do they struggle to understand the code that other people create?
  • What’s the root cause of late-night work? When your developers are forced to work long hours, that may tell you about your coding quality problems. The cause may be poorly-documented requirements, relying on experimental software or something else.

Step 2: Link coding standards as solutions

Now that you understand the problems your developers have, you can look for connections between those problems and coding standards. All you need are one or two significant coding problems. To win your team’s support, use the following steps:

  • Discuss problems you find. Even if you’re 100% confident that you’ve seen it all when it comes to coding problems, don’t skip this step. It’s essential for your team to describe the problem in their terms. You need to hear points like “our Stripe integration keeps failing” instead of “integrations are a problem”.
  • Reveal the consequences. Learn more about the impact of the problem and draw it out for your team. For example, if the Stripe integration keeps failing, you lose money and have to implement manual workarounds to accept payments. Therefore, it’s critical to find out why coding quality problems cause problems for your developers. Are they suffering from burnout? Or are they frustrated at having to rework poor problems?
  • Introduce coding standards as a solution. Explain that you’re looking at developing coding standards as a way to improve coding.
  • Ask for team support in a pilot test. Here, you’re asking them to join you in adopting coding standards. So make it clear that you’re introducing this idea to improve the product and in order to help everyone become more productive.

Are you developing coding standards from scratch?

This is a great position to be in! If you’re starting from scratch, it’s easier to win your team’s support. Simply include them in the developing the standards and have an open space for ideas and processes. As a manager, you can come up with a first draft of principles or procedures that address some crucial problems you see. Then invite your team to critique the document, add their ideas and go from there.

Set up your coding standards review

Adopting coding standards is one way to improve productivity. If your coding standards have not been reviewed in a few years, dust them off and ask some hard questions. Is the team using them? If not, they are overdue for an in-depth review.

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