WIP Limits per User

paradox is an argument that produces an inconsistency, typically within logic or common sense. (Long live Wikipedia)

In my experience I’ve witnessed a strange phenomenon when teams new to Kanban start adopting it. What happens is that everyone learns the theory and starts doing things in a robotized not-so-much-thoughtful fashion. Moreover, this is probably the good case, because sometimes people won’t even read and try at all.

So you have all these motivated and talented people, who do their best to produce flow. Flow is getting better and better, customers are happier than ever before, but you suddenly realize that your best people are less productive and working on every single project simultaneously within the company. How come you’re doing Kanban (which is supposed to limit work in progress) but you actually made things worse?

Well, it’s simple. Lean culture says that we need to do whatever we can to ensure flow. If we were manufacturing, it could have been easier, but many of us write software, or do sales, or consulting, or education, etc. This means we have people and knowledge issues, because it is not always clear what has to be done and how it has to be done.

Imagine a team of 10 having 20% senior people 50% regulars and 30% juniors. All of them work on something and all of them have issues. When juniors have questions they go to regulars or seniors. When regulars have questions they go to the seniors for help. Seniors may be super busy, but they need to ensure flow, therefore they work with the team to make sure all is good. This happens frequently and causes context switches. Context switches make people less productive by default and tragically, the seniors are the ones who make most of these switches.

We understand the problem. Now what?

Now we have the new feature called User WIP Limits. It is how you can get the full picture and ensure flow in a way that it is consistent, predicable and not overwhelming for your knowledge keepers. All you need to do is to set the global number of cards that each person can work on at a given moment in time. Global means across all projects and boards and this is how we do it:

You go to the Team management and select the WIP Limits tab. When it opens, you select the users that you want to set limits for and hit the settings button. The next panel looks like that:


You can configure which sections (backlog, requested, in progress, done, archive) should be accounted for when calculating the current number of cards, you can set a global limit or a limit per section. To give you a greater flexibility we made it configurable whether you would allow or not this limit to be exceeded.

But this is not all. You remember the My Queue feature, right? Now it can show you the cards assigned to you based on these global WIP limits. Enter the My Queue and Worklog panel from your grid board menu.


Then just go to the my queue settings and select the right option:


When you do it, you will see your queue like that:


This is how we solve this paradox for you. You just need to make sure that people only work on cards assigned to them and the rest is taken care of.


One thought on “WIP Limits per User

  1. Pingback: Kanban 101 – Applying WIP Limits | Kanbanize Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *