A brief visual management tactic born out of Kanban: Limited Work In Progress.
Our teams have been limiting their work in progress for a good while now to great benefit. To visualise these limits we place physical Work In Progress (WIP) limits on our team board:
You can limit work in progress for the whole workflow, or for individual workflow steps or groups of steps. We also call the limit out at the top of each stage in the workflow, as so:
These limits are difficult to violate without someone noticing: “Use visual control so no problems are hidden”. Take a look at the following board. Someone is clearly being nefarious here:
We’ve tended away from setting these limits in stone; prefering to treat them as a point for discussion and root cause analysis of why a limit is being broken.
It’s worth noting that we don’t use swimlanes for limits. As each of our work items go through the same process there is no need for swimlanes: it’s worth noting not to conflate the two. Swimlanes in Kanban had some interesting coverage at Lean Kanban Benelux 2011, with John Seddon raising the opinion that swimlanes hurt capacity. Whilst this may be true, there is value in them, which we’ll cover in a future Visual Management series.
Determining an initial Limit
Our approach is simple: keep it simple. Have the smallest possible number of workflow steps (columns) and iterate from an initial Work in Progress limit, say: (N / 2) + 1 where N is the number of team members.
You can find out more about limiting Work In Progress in Kanban from David Anderson.
As a simple visual technique to trigger these discussions “hard WIP limits” on your board may just work for you. How do you visualise your WIP limits? Let us know @14principles.
Photo: Creative commons, Michael Lokner
- Yuval Yerert gave a talk on commitment and energies in a kanban system. This talk included our first conference outing of our material: Zombie Cycle Time by our colleague Luke Smallwood. Thanks to Yuval for adding it!
- David Anderson‘s slides from his talk “Kanban: When is it not appropriate” are available. This is a must read for any WIP limiters.
- Yuval also gave a second talk: Large Scale Kanban.
- There was some noteworthy discussion about swimlanes in Kanban. There is more interleaved on the #lkbe11 hashtag
- Jurgen De Smet & Yves Hanoulle gave on talk on Improve your decision making by using Real Options. The slides are available here.
- Arne Roock‘s Limit your WIP! Why and how? talk slides are available.
- Slides from Henri Kivioja’s Erricson Finland talk can be found here.
- Grant Rule & Bob Marshall gave two Rightshifting effectivity talks: Rightshifting in a Nutshell and Realising Value, how to apply Rightshifting. You can find more discussion at this linked in group
- Karl Scotland‘s Science of Kanban slides.
- Patrick Steyaert gave a talk on Lean Adaptive Management. Slides are available
- Slides from Lean Startup: A learning organisation
- A talk in one photo - Portfolio Management by Thomas Lissajoux
- Alan Shalloway‘s keynote Lean Kanban is about people (free registration required)
- You can see the full track here. Videos should be available on Friday. We’ll update this roundup when they appear.
Some talks of note not mentioned already:
- When Models Collide – Eric Willeke
- Two talks from Cisco from Ken Power, Applying Telecommunications and Network Design Principles to Lean Product Development: Examples from Cisco Systems & Kanban at Cisco
- Keynote: It’s the system stupid! – John Seddon
- Keynote: Practice without sound theory will not scale – Dave Snowden
- Improve your decision making by using Real Option: Jürgen De Smet & Yves Hanoulle
- BDD: Step Away from the Tools: Liz Keogh
You can find more at the #lkbe11 hashtag. Most of the interesting chatter is on the days of the conference, 3rd + 4th October 2011. For a sense of the atmosphere, you can see this large number of photos posted by Maarten
And so concludes our 14Roundup of Lean Kanban Benelux 2011. We hope you found the collection of links to the talks that caught our eye useful. If there’s anything you think should be up here, let us know: @14principles. More next time…
A little late, but here’s our roundup of the ALE2011 unconference. This was one we wished we could make too, but instead followed from our armchairs.
To the business. Here’s our 14 Roundup of ALE2011:
- Organising ALE2011 with Real Options by @OlafLewitz . A brilliant take on how ALE2011 came together.
- @ulrikapark‘s reflections: Complexity and Feature Injection at Agile Lean Europe 2011 Berlin
- @scharlau‘s reflections on ALE2011
- @OlafLewitz‘s impressions from ALE2011
- Interesting and great-idea for more tiny ALEs on this LinkedIn group by @jurgenappelo
- @robvanlanen‘s reflection on his FedEx Days Talk
- @YvesHanoulle‘s personal retrospective of ALE2011. An introspective take on unconference attendance.
- I’m Back from Berlin by @mfloryan
- Why I Liked ALE2011, a really great summary of the little bits of organisation that made all the difference, by @jurgenappelo
- @JonJagger‘s tiny synopsis of his lightning talk: Precision Listening. Be great to see the full lightning talk, as this really chimes.
- Agile Thoughts and Things: ALE2011 Berlin: the fall of the wall by @ojuncu
- The full Keynote from Bjarte Bogsnes on Beyond Budgetting is available here
- See the resources page for more up to date round ups, blogs and some talks
- See the LinkedIn group for more discussion
More in our next 14 Roundup.
“I wish the derogatory term ScrumBut would die. Sometimes ScrumBut is a problem, sometimes ScrumBut is a solution. If your process is working for you, then it is right. Never mind if it is 0%, 50%, or 100% Scrum. And no matter how good or how bad your current process is working for you, it can be improved. Agile is a direction, not a place.”
We’re in total agreement with Heinrick on this.
One of our teams had issues with long cycle times.
In an effort to reduce cycle times, Luke Smallwood, a colleague of ours devised the babyzombie sticker to visualise the problem:
Every day, for every `in progress` card, someone replaces the previous sticker with the next sticker. This is a simple, yet effective measure of cycle time. In practice, this turns out quite a pain to manage. Lot’s of replacing stickers:
Rather than replace the babyzombie sticker, the team tried to split their ‘in progress’ column in 5: each headed by the babyzombie.
Every day, cards move along one slot. Immediate visualisation of cycle time:
We’ve been moving towards short, even cycle time and flow for a while now. The benefits of short, even cycle times are clear and simple:
- Process and practices have to improve to continually achieve short cycle time
- Normalised working practices emerge
- Predictability in delivery
- Guesstimation becomes a thing of the past
For more on the importance of cycle time, flow and cadence see this article from Karl Scotland.