WIP Limits

What makes WIP limits a valuable asset in Kanban?

Alexander Sergeev avatar
Written by Alexander Sergeev
Updated over a week ago

Learning Kanban means detailed reviewing all its principles and characteristics that have real importance and discover the benefits they will bring to your workflow.

A feature named "WIP limits" is the essential part of Kanban.

WIP: what does the acronym mean? 

WIP stands for Work In Progress. This is about the number of tasks/ items that a team is currently working on. And it is directly the amount of work being started, regardless of the subcolumn, it is in.

WIP frames the workflow capacity at any moment. 

In Kanban, limiting work in progress is one of the main properties. Limiting WIP, you can clearly manage your processes in a way that creates a smooth workflow. Setting limits on the work in progress helps to avoid overworking and context switching while focusing on the important things.

WIP Limits: Why is it important?

WIP limits restrict the maximum amount of tasks/items in the different workflow stages of the workflow that are visualized as columns in Kanban.

This Kanban feature looks essential because its implementation allows completing single work items faster, by helping the team to focus only on current issues.

Applying WIP limits, you will have the opportunity to locate bottlenecks in the working processes before they become blockers. The WIP limits option is an important prerequisite for delivering value to your clients as fast as possible.

What makes WIP limits a valuable asset in Kanban?

Setting such limits is one of the main practices that make the Kanban methodology so efficient. It's not surprising, that today more and more companies are choosing this approach, pushing Kanban to the list of latest project management trends.

Implementing Work in Progress limits you'll be sure that your team will keep an optimal work pace without exceeding its work capacity.

Look at a sample Kanban board:

In its context, WIP limit guarantees that you start only as much work as you finish throughout the company. 

This prevents the gathering of unfinished work that otherwise would be risky.  

Moreover, limiting WIP assists in revealing the work process blockers and preventing the team from regular context switching between tasks. 

All these will definitely have a positive impact on global efficiency and will improve your team’s productivity.

For small teams, applying WIP limits of one task per person will prevent context-switching and immediately reveal the difference in throughput rates.

It will be a signal about the need for reviewing the process and potentially assigning more people.

How to set up Work In Progress limits in Hygger?

According to Kanban, it's critical to make sure that every developer in a team works only on one task simultaneously. For this aim, we need the help of WIP limits that restrict the number of simultaneous tasks in the column.

For example, if there are 5 programmers working within one board, then you set a limit of 5 tasks. If there are 6 tasks in the column at the same time, you will see a red indicator that notifies that there are more tasks than are supposed to be.

It's also possible to track the minimum number of tasks in work. If the column consists of fewer tasks than it was set, then you will see an orange indicator:

Final thoughts

Applying Work in Progress limits will let you create a smooth workflow and use team’s capacity at the optimal level by:

  • Preventing processes overloading

  • Assisting to find blockers 

  • Providing the opportunity to deliver value to end customers as fast as possible

  • Avoiding a constant context switching between work items

Hygger suggests 

Dive deeply into more Kanban methodology terms: (links)

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