A codebase is always evolving, but it doesn’t evolve evenly across all aspects.
A Clean As You Go engineer will notice and refine shortcomings even if it’s not essential to the task at hand.
This pattern of continually improving the code is a fantastic behavior to encourage.
“Fixing” work certainly doesn’t get the attention that “feature” work does, in part because there’s rarely that “ta-da” moment.
While this can be much less visible and recognizable than working on new code, this engineer’s contribution is invaluable.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE IT
“Clean As You Go” refers to when an engineer contributes new code
and also mends adjacent code in the codebase.
Consequently, you’ll notice these engineers writing new code while
also showing higher levels of legacy refactoring, that exceed the expected scope of change for the assignment at hand.
WHAT TO DO
Recognize this engineer’s work publicly and use it as a model for other team members to work towards.
Regularly acknowledge it in sprint retro and dailys, even after you first observe the pattern.
Consistent acknowledgment lets everyone know you value this effort.