I work for a large humanitarian organisation, on a project building software that could help save lives in emergencies by speeding up the distribution of food. Many NGOs desperately need our software and we are weeks behind schedule.
One thing that worries me in this project is what I think is an excessive focus on coding standards. We write in python/django and use a version of PEP0008, with various modifications e.g. line lengths can go up to 160 chars and all lines should go that long if possible, no blank lines between imports, line wrapping rules that apply only to certain kinds of classes, lots of templates that we must use, even if they aren't the best way to solve a problem etc. etc.
One core dev spent a week rewriting a major part of the system to meet the then new coding standards, throwing away several suites of tests in the process, as the rewrite meant they were 'invalid'. We spent two weeks rewriting all the functionality that was lost, and fixing bugs. He is the lead dev and his word carries weight, so he has convinced the project manager that these standards are necessary. The junior devs do as they are told. I sense that the project manager has a strong feeling of cognitive dissonance about all this but nevertheless agrees with it vehemently as he feels unsure what else to do.
Today I got in serious trouble because I had forgotten to put some spaces after commas in a keyword argument. I was literally shouted at by two other devs and the project manager during a Skype call. Personally I think coding standards are important but also think that we are wasting a lot of time obsessing with them, and when I verbalized this it provoked rage. I'm seen as a troublemaker in the team, a team that is looking for scapegoats for its failings. Since the introduction of the coding standards, the team's productivity has measurably plummeted, however this only reinforces the obsession, i.e. the lead dev simply blames our non-adherence to standards for the lack of progress. He believes that we can't read each other's code if we don't adhere to the conventions.
This is starting to turn sticky. Now I am trying to modify various scripts, autopep8, pep8ify and PythonTidy to try to match the conventions. We also run pep8 against source code but there are so many implicit amendments to our standard that it's hard to track them all. The lead dev simple picks faults that the pep8 script doesn't pick up and shouts at us in the next stand-up meeting. Every week there are new additions to the coding standards that force us to rewrite existing, working, tested code. Thank heavens we still have tests, (I reverted some commits and fixed a bunch of the ones he removed).
All the while there is increasing pressure to meet the deadline.
I believe a fundamental issue is that the lead dev and another core dev refuse to trust other developers to do their job. But how to deal with that? We can't do our job because we are too busy rewriting everything.
I've never encountered this dynamic in a software engineering team. Am I wrong to question their adherence to coding standards? Has anyone else experienced a similar situation and how have they dealt with it successfully? (I'm not looking for a discussion just actual solutions people have found)