Clean as You Code

In my younger days I was a Line Cook at the Olive Garden. In case you’ve never worked in the food industry, Line Cooks are the guys putting meals together as fast as customers order them.

At times, it’s nearly impossible to keep up.Among the most fundamental of the Line Cook’s principles was clean as you go.

I can remember clearly the manager walking regally down the line chanting, “Clean as you go Javier. Clean as you go Micah. Clean as you go Brian.” Cooks would remind each other from time to time too, “Clean as you go!”

As you’re realizing, it’s import to keep your station clean when you’re a cook. Keeping things clean is not easy. Food gets everywhere when you’re putting together hundreds of meals an hour. Why is it important to keep it clean? Simple.

When your station is dirty, the system breaks down and it slows you down. Utensils are dirty or missing, ingredients get mixed together, cooking surfaces are soiled…combine this with all the fire, boiling water, and sharp knives, it’s dangerous too!

Worse, other cooks are not able to help out. Uncleanliness on the line is a vicious cycle with positive feedback. Every experienced cook keeps their station spotless at all times and unexperienced cooks learn fast.

Dirtiness is a sign of trouble too. Let’s say that it’s the middle of a dinner rush. You look down the line and notice that Javier’s station is becoming cluttered. It’s near certainty that in five minutes Javier’s system will break down. Food will be burnt, orders will get lost, and servers will get vocal.

Don’t get servers mad! Line Cooks work as a team though. So when you see that Javier’s station is getting cluttered, you jump over and give Javier a hand every moment you can spare.

This principle, “Clean as you go”, is well applied to software, “Clean as you code”. The analogy is fairly straight forward. Although I’ve applied the principle to software for years, it was only recently that I recalled the mantra “Clean as you go”.

I’m sure my teammates will soon grow tired of hearing me chant…“Clean as you code!”

Micah Martin, Co-founder and Software Craftsman

Micah Martin is co-founder of 8th Light and is known for his open source work such as FitNesse, Limelight, Joodo, and Speclj.