Rotation

January 7, 2007

Kiwi cricket coach John Bracewell is taking a bit of stick for his new rotation policy.

This is Richard Boock from the Herald last week (well before the embrassing result in Auckland over the weekend):

No one in their right mind will take seriously a man who employs a rotation policy despite not having 11 full-strength players, and at a time when New Zealand cricket has roughly the same depth as a toddler’s swimming pool.

Nice analogy!

Throughout the last All Black season Graham Henry was similarly criticised for his selections. The results all went his way though and he now has the luxury of selecting the team for the upcoming World Cup from a large pool of proven experienced players. So, with hindsight it’s hard to argue the critics were justified.

Time will tell if history treats Braces as kindly.

I imagine that the players themselves have mixed feelings about being rotated, although they don’t express it in public. For the stars of the team, who will be automatic selections when the crunch time comes, it’s probably nice to get a chance to relax. But for the players battling for a place in the team it must suck to sit and watch while somebody else gets a chance to impress in their position.

And, these are all competitive people who don’t like to lose, individually or as a team.

Must be frustrating …

Speaking of which: … what happens when the same principle is applied to other types of teams? For example, software development teams.

You could argue that we use a rotation policy of sorts within the dev team at Trade Me in that we tend to mix up the projects a bit so that over time everybody works on different parts of the site.

This is a form of collective code ownership, which is not a new idea.

The main benefits are anybody is able to make changes to any part of the application, without fear of stepping on others toes; no individual becomes a bottleneck when changes are required; and the team is resilient to changes in roles and personal (this was also the justification used by Graham Henry for his rotation policy, pointing at the impact injuries to key players had in previous World Cup campaigns).

But what are the associated costs?

As Stefan Reitshamer points out, there is a pretty fine line between everybody owning the code and nobody owning the code. Instead of maximising flexibility and code quality as intended it becomes a tragedy of the commons.

I’m not sure there is a simple answer to this problem. However, unlike Messrs Henry and Bracewell, it’s nice to be able to work through these trade-offs without the media scrutinising every decision.