WIP Limits

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We’ve all been there: trying to overshoot at work and accept more tasks than we can handle. Then we’re stuck working on all of them in bits and pieces, hoping to get all the work done at once.

The fact of the matter is that the human brain cannot multitask. We try but fail most of the time, usually switching between tasks rather than doing several of them at once. Studies have shown that changing tasks in rapid succession can be detrimental to your morale and add to the time you spend doing each task. 

Below we discuss how WIP limits help you manage multiple tasks. However, before discussing this, it’s essential to understand what WIP limits are, their importance, and how to deploy WIP limits. 

What Are WIP Limits?

Work in Progress (WIP) limits refer to the blocks that set the maximum amount of tasks employees and team members can work on. Perhaps the best thing about setting WIP limits is that they help identify inefficiency in a team’s workflow. 

Because bottlenecks are highlighted before they become a more significant issue, WIP limits are considered an integral way to stabilize workflow and increase predictability. This makes it easy to establish a pull-based system. 

WIP Limits Per Iteration

Iterations are the basic building blocks of Agile development. Think of each iteration as a standard, fixed-length timebox that Agile teams need to submit their deliverables. Each iteration anchors a pull-event across the entire team’s contribution. 

What Are Kanban WIP Limits?

Kanban is a popular “lean workflow” management method that helps you define, manage and improve your services. It helps you visualize work, streamline efficiency and keep improving your processes. 

But what is a Kanban WIP Limit? 

Work in Progress limits can be represented by the Kanban method. It embodies the total number of tasks that are being worked on simultaneously, giving you and your team a bird’s eye view of what to work on. A Kanban WIP limit helps prevent work overloads and essentially improves overall workflow. 

What Are Agile WIP Limits?

Agile software is an approach to software development whereby your teams become more autonomous and cross-functional, allowing them to optimize their output. The process is broken down into small chunks of work called “Sprints.” 

In each Sprint, the team produces the deliverable and then meets at the end to dissect what went smoothly and what needs to be worked on.

Teams that use Kanban Work in Progress limits can count how many cards are currently active/ in-process. You can also work out the estimated level of effort and number of work items for each day. 

What Are the Benefits of Setting WIP Limits?

You might be wondering: what are the benefits of setting WIP limits? Well, keep reading to find out exactly why so many workplaces gravitate towards WIP Limits for Kanban. 

Keep Optimal Work Pace

With the help of your Kanban WIP limits, you can optimize your work pace without exceeding its work capacity. 

In Kanban dashboards, WIP Limits ensure that you only work as much as you can finish through the organization. This prevents process choke-up and ensures that there is no backlog of unfinished work. 

Reveal Process Blockers 

The great thing about applying WIP Limits to your Kanban dashboard is that it helps identify roadblocks in your workflow. Moreover, it keeps team members from rapidly switching between different tasks, making it easier for them to concentrate on one thing at a time for better motivation and productivity.

WIP Limits Introduce Slack into the System 

Another positive of deploying WIP limits to your work process is that they introduce slack to the team. This essentially means that a few members of your team might go underutilized. While this may sound like a bad thing, slack time creates room for improving the way we work. Team members can use this time to watch webinars, attend training sessions and enhance their overall skills. This is an incredible opportunity for professional development during working hours. 

Deliver Quickly 

Perhaps the most significant benefit of WIP limits is that it enables you to submit deliverables quicker. This is made possible by introducing the practice of limiting work in your system, giving you the ability to complete active tasks relatively quickly. In other words, limiting WIP improves your delivery rate and helps you continuously exceed customer expectations. 

Why Is It Important to Use WIP Limits?

If you don’t deploy Work in Progress limits with the Kanban method, you potentially put your business at risk of the following: 

  • Chronic idleness—WIP limits help you see inefficiencies throughout your entire process. 
  • Low productivity—Having to work on multiple tasks at a time can plummet your motivation and, ultimately, your productivity. WIP limits make sure that never happens to you or your team.
  • Failure to spot bottlenecks in processes—The WIP limits system allows you to see which areas need improvement, helping you streamline processes for maximum efficiency.  

How to Deploy WIP Limits

Your WIP limits will typically be more guesswork at the start of your Kanban practice.  A good place to start is setting the limit to correspond with the number of members within your team for each process step. 

Here is an effective way to set WIP limits:

Before starting, ensure that you’ve mapped out your team’s workflow to Kanban columns. Then, do the following: 

  • Open your Kanban board using admin access. Remember that only team admins and project admins have the authorization to edit the dashboard.
  • Click on the gear icon to configure the dashboard and customize the general team settings. 
  • Choose Columns and then a column tab to fix the WIP limit for that particular column. 
  • Click Save

How Can GoRetro Help?

As we’ve discussed, WIP limits have numerous benefits, including identifying potential bottlenecks and keeping your team productive. Another great way to ensure that your team brings its A-game every day is by using GoRetro’s online retrospective tools

The best part about this is that it’s open-source and helps you collaborate with your teams in a retrospective shared space.

Run team retrospectives easily, quickly, and absolutely FREE

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