Identifying & fighting your team’s systemic issues creating your legacy
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The Kebab Kata’s Facilitator’s guide

A Game to identify & fight the team’s systemic issues creating your legacy

Because we tend to believe this is only on the devs shoulders but everyone has a part creating that legacy! Your interactions with your teammates and managers are as much of a burden to your code as you are.

By Romeu Moura

I have created this kata for NewCrafts, done it at DDDEurope & SoCraTes. The concept of using these patterns to do a Kebab I have taken from Matthias Felleisen & Dan Friedman.

Pitching it as a facilitator

Try to create a code you will not consider “legacy”.

I’ll play the role of your client and use around 20 techniques to make you fail.

You will fail.

We’ll then discuss what techniques I have used, how they happen in real life, how to fight them in your project.

All languages welcome. Bring your own laptop with your environment. We’ll split into small teams.

From 4 to ∞ Participants

  • A Facilitator (you, right? if not stop reading now and pass this to the facilitator)
  • You are also the time-keeper and the “client”
  • At least 2 pairs of devs (Each group needs at least 2 devs and you need at least two groups)

It takes about 2 hours

  • around 75 minutes for the body of the kata, then a debrief
  • you can do a quicker 90 minutes version in a hurry
  • the debrief can get quite long tho, I have seen groups needing to talk afterwards for hours

Playing the game

  • 4 iterations where they code with a budget of time you give
  • they can negotiate for more, be open to negotiate but never open to accept giving more
  • You should always behave like it is too much and ask if they cannot do it in less
  • yes even though you decided on an arbitrary budget of time
  • At the end of each iteration each team has 45 seconds to do a “client demo”
  • During the client demos other teams can cheat and keep developing
  • the team does not show code during the client demo; just tests (automatic or manual) of the code working
  • the team can sell vapourware at the client demo
  • after the client demos we do code reviews
  • half of the teams review half of the others then reverse
  • each review goes for 1.5 to 2 minutes
  • encourage teams to be honest with the reviewers
  • and ask reviewers to try to give positive suggestions on improvements
  • after four iterations (each with its own code round, demo and code reviews): do a final debrief


  • choose whether or not you will tell them how many iterations there are
  • but do not give the contents and time budget of any iterations before it starts.
  • You may choose to announce one of the 4 iterations as being five minutes longer that indicated. Then, during the iteration, announce a budget cut and use the total indicated time.

Iteration 1: “Kebabs & vegeterianism” (10 minutes)

Tell the devs:

  • you are the owner of a kebab shop
  • you need kebab object that you can create with any ingredient you want (salad, tomatoes, onions, meat, etc)
  • you already have an user interface you only want the object
  • it should have one method isVegeterian
  • Takes no argument, returns a boolean
  • true if all ingredients on the kebab are vegeterian (vegetables + cheese + eggs)
  • you will be generous and give them ample amount of time to do such a simple task : 10 minutes.
  • Be vague!
  • do not give them your list of ingredients outright
  • behave like it should be obvious
  • be inconsistent !
  • when they ask specifically for the ingredients list, keep forgetting and remembering ingredients
  • Devalue their work
  • Treat the task like being trivial and 10 minutes like being more than double the time they need to do this
  • Interrupt them to ask for opinions and lower estimates
  • anyone that accepts to do it in less has a reminder at the end of their estimate that they shoud be finished
  • Insist that you think they should not invest too much of their time into quality and tests

Iteration 2: “Just finish your work & clean!” (7 minutes)

Tell the devs:

  • You understand that maybe they have not completely finished & need some extra budget
  • They also need some time to refactor, test & clean
  • You'll be generous and give them some time to do that now
  • ALSO, by the way, you want Kebab to just have another method isPesceterian
  • Everything that isVegeterian is also isPesceterian plus fishs & shrimps
  • yes, it is the first time you talk about shrimps
  • deny it being the first time
  • tell them that you also want to submit a bug report regarding that they're not handling shrimp up until now
  • insist that this is just a “cleaning sprint” you are giving as a gift, the isPesceterian demand being, obviously, just a tiny detail
  • keep the vagueness, inconsistencies and demands for estimations
  • insist that best is the enemy of good enough
  • go around team per team asking each team if they would not produce more if they split the team into several teams of one person each working together by splitting tasks

Iteration 3: “A single urgent user story for this sprint!” (15 minutes)

Tell the devs:

  • You want to submit a bug report: they do not handle sauces
  • tell them it's obvious you have sauces, of course you do !
  • but anyway this is not the main issue with the sprint: you have a really urgent user story!
  • insist that they should answer your problem, not a general version of it
  • You want Kebab to do the two most common demands fo your clients: removeOnions & doubleCheese
  • both return a Kebab, it can be a new one or the same changed, but the caller will just use the kebab returned
  • removeOnions returns a kebab like this one, without any onions
  • bread + cheese + onion + onion + cheese + onion returns bread + cheese + cheese
  • doubleCheese returns a kebab like this one, with the cheeses doubled in place
  • bread + cheese + onion + cheese + onion returns bread + cheese + cheese + onion + cheese + cheese + onion
  • keep the vagueness, inconsistencies and demands for estimations
  • insist your two demands are a single one
  • refuse to prioritize between them
  • go around team asking them if they cannot finish it earlier, like 10 minutes in total

intermission: “a new you”

Tell the devs:

  • Thank you for your good work!
  • Please high-five everyone in your team!
  • you are all fired!
  • you are a new version of yourselves, unrelated to the previous ones
  • I hire you to inherit the codebase of your previous selves
  • the last team REALLY did an awful job! They where awful!
  • But your new you is really good, I can see that!
  • please do a one minute audit of the code
  • no editing the code during the audit
  • each team should give a report of what they would want to change in that legacy codebase they just audited

Iteration 4: “Cleaning that legacy codebase!” (20 minutes)

Tell the devs:

  • If the code does not work, first make it work
  • If the code does not have tests you should add them
  • Then you can refactor as you see fit
  • I have hired an Architect to help you with an idea of how to do that refactoring

Changing voice tone, Tell the devs:

  • You are The Architect
  • You will try to speak with them in terms they can understand
  • You propose that they create a Dish Kebab that is a NullObject pattern
  • Then each one of the other types of Kebab should follow a Composite pattern
  • They will take another, inner, Kebab in their constructor & delegate to it
  • a Beef Kebab is not Vegeterian: its isVegeterian returns false
  • a Salad Kebab is Vegeterian: its isVegeterian calls the isVegeterian of its inner Kebab
  • Defer any criticism of the idea by appealing to your own authority

The Debrief

Tell the devs:

  • have they created in their own personal definition a Legacy codebase?
  • What is their definition?
  • You have used at least 10 techniques to push them into creating shitty code (Note: those where my Tips)
  • you offer them one for free : You instilled an artificial and arbitrary sense of urgency
  • with your deadlines
  • and you pression for them to finish before those arbitrary deadlines
  • What else have you done?
  • Make them list it
  • Do they see this in their everyday lives?
  • How can we fight each one of those?
  • This becomes a debate