Why you should never ask permission to clean up code

22 March 2011

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"Can I take some time to clean up this code? It is horrendous." The answer should always be yes to this question. However, often times we find ourselves up against walls in the form of budgets, time, due dates and expectation and so the typical "powers that be" at companies often veto the request. My advice to you, dear developer, is to never ask for permission for things you know are vital to your work.

You know your work environment better than I do so perhaps you can ask this question and immediately have the full support of your team. Sad to say that many aren't so fortunate. They'll ask their boss if they can take some time to clean up their code, make it efficient and extensible and, while the boss may recognize the need for such tasks, ultimately the boss will simply say "maybe we can do that later".

Why is this the typical reaction? Because bosses don't have to read, edit and support the code.

This is folly and every developer knows it. Bosses, (if you're reading this) putting off a few hours worth of code clean-up now will only turn into many hours or days in the future. So by allowing your developers time to do this much needed code maintenance you're actually saving your company money. But don't worry - they're not going to ask you for permission anymore. They're just going to do it.