Communication: Why Limit WIP IX

Jim BensonExpert, Primers1 Comment

“Good morning, Eldred.”

“Good morning, Markus.”

Before Markus came on board, there was zero contact with the CEO. Maybe at the Christmas party. He was more like a movie star – someone you recognized but didn’t dare approach. Certainly not someone who would know your name.

Markus, on the other hand, was a regular at stand-up meetings. He’d participate, but not dictate. It was like he was actually interested.

For months now, Team B had been regularly releasing features for the product. Now, the team was suspiciously close to … delivering.

Team B

Markus comes into Team B’s space and looks up at the kanban. He sees directly what’s in process, what’s done, and what is almost done.

He says to Eldred, “That looks good!”

There was no briefing. There was no status meeting. He can see that work is flowing. That two tasks are completed and three more are in acceptance testing. Soon they’ll be ready as well. No tickets are marked as blocked or as a problem.

The team is within their WIP limits – 2 for design, 2 for development, 4 for acceptance.

Eldred says with a smile, “If the box design is out of development today, the rest is easy. We have a working session on that today. I think we’ll knock it out.”

After years of shoddy or no releases, they are releasing something after a matter of months – and that feels good.

Communication and Limiting WIP

The WIP limits for the team enable flow of work, they also limit the work being undertaken to a reasonable level. On Team B’s board, Marcus is able to quickly grasp what is going on – so can the members of Team B, so can members of Team A. Everyone can see the simple story that is this project.

That instant information transfer from kanban means that no one on the team had to tell Markus their status. Since nothing is blocked or shows a status of pain, there is no need to talk about them in depth. Eldred mentioned one feature in particular, because it was relevant and he was excited about it.

Time consuming communication can now be reserved for things people actually need to talk about.

In addition, the board is always on. If something becomes blocked or in danger, the board communicates that too.

Without limited WIP, the board’s conversation becomes much less compelling. We never know if people are overburdened. We will likely have an incomprehensible number of tickets on the board. Tickets will enter the board and languish for long periods of time. When questioned, people will say, “Yeah, I’m just not working on that right now” and will continue to say that as the board fills with the trivial and the catastrophic.

The healthy constraint of limiting WIP creates a coherent message that is instantly communicated to all.


This is post 9 in a 10 part series on Why Limit Your WIP.   Read post 10 Learning: Why Limit Your WIP X in the Why Limit Your WIP series.  Also, see the index for a list of all of them.

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Jim BensonCommunication: Why Limit WIP IX

One Comment on ““Communication: Why Limit WIP IX”

  1. Pingback: Awareness: Why Limit WIP VIII | Personal Kanban

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