I am at a loss for what to say other than that is not at all how it works. The code-steward serves as a mentor and trail-guide to the knowledge in the code. Consulting the code-steward is not about getting permission, it is about receiving knowledge and guidance:
- The purpose of the protocol for consulting the code-steward is to ensure two-way communication and learning (and foster collaboration). That communication is a dialogue rather than a mere "token" transaction. It's not a one-way transfer of "control", but a two-way transfer of knowledge!
- Stewardship is being accountable to the larger team or organization by "operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us."
- "We choose service over self-interest most powerfully when we build the capacity of the next generation to govern themselves"
- Stewardship offers a model of partnership that distributes the power of choice and resources to each individual.
- Stewardship is personal - everyone is responsible for outcomes; mutual trust is the basic building block, and the willingness to risk and be vulnerable is a given.
- Total honesty is critical. End secrecy. Give knowledge away because it is a form of power
However, early on I would expect stewards to have a more direct role. And I believe the form of code-ownership that Feature-Driven Development (FDD) practices may seem fairly strict at first, but is really intended to be the initial stages of code-stewardship in the first two quadrants of the situational leadership model.
I beleive the form in which stewardship should manifest itself is situational, depending on the skill and motivation of the team and its members. In Ken Blanchard's model of situational leadership, there are four quadrants of leadership-style, each of which should be used on the corresponding combination of hi-lo motivation and hi-lo skill for a given task:
- Directing (hi directive + lo supportive, for "enthusiastic beginners")
- Supporting (hi directive + hi supportive, for "disillusioned learners")
- Coaching (lo directive + hi supportive, for "reluctant contributors")
- Delegating (lo directive + lo supportive, for "peak performers")
So I would say it is the presence of stewardship which is the key to succeeding with either individual code ownership or collective code ownership. If stewardship is present, then both can succeed; If it is absent, it's likely that neither will succeed. And the collective and individual "styles" are the extreme ends of the spectrum, with "code counselors" as the style in between those two extremes.