1. WIP limit definition and types
Applying WIP limits to your workflow is one of the core Kanban practices.
In general, a WIP Limit or "Work-in-Progress" limit stands for the maximum amount of work items that a given stage can hold. Literally, WIP frames the capacity of your team’s workflow at any moment.
Limiting your work in progress makes it easier to identify inefficiency in your workflow, and bottlenecks become clearly visible.
Using "WIP" limits, you build a pull system in your workflow and reduce the waste in your process.
In order to apply WIP limits on a given board, you must be an Account Owner, a Workspace Manager, or have a custom board role that includes the 'Edit Workflow' permission for the board in question.
There are two types of WIP limits:
CARD COUNT: limit the work based on the number of task items that each stage can hold.
For example, if any of your columns have a WIP limit of 2 (number of cards), then the user will not be able to pull more than 2 cards in that column. They have to finish one of the tasks before pulling a new one.
For example, if any of your columns have a WIP limit of 6 (the size of your cards) and each task has a size of 3, then the user will not be able to pull more than 2 cards in that column. They have to finish one of the tasks before pulling a new one. In case there are three tasks, each having a size of 2, the system will allow your team members to work on 3 cards simultaneously.
You can define the limit type from the "edit workflow" mode of your board.
Go to the Limit type option and choose between Card Count and Card Size.
2. How to configure your WIP limit system behavior?
As the next step, you have to define the WIP limit's system behavior. With this configuration, you decide what happens in the system when a WIP limit is exceeded.
- Always allow - in this way, the limits only serve as indicators. When the limit is exceeded, the column header becomes red.
- Allow with reason - the board users are allowed to exceed the limits, but they have to provide a reason for exceeding them.
- Always deny - the team members will not be able to exceed the limits, and the card will be automatically moved to the previous column.
To check if WIP limits have been reached or exceeded, you can open the 'All Activities' menu and run a report by filtering the events based on their type (Exceeded/Reached limits).
Limits that have been exceeded or reached will also be documented in the work items' history tab.
3. How to set up WIP Limits in the workflow?
When you define the Limit type and the WIP limit behavior, you can start setting up WIP limits in the workflow.
The system allows you to set up WIP limits:
- per column
- per group of columns (CONWIP)
- per individual board cells
- per swimlane
- per user
- Set up a COLUMN WIP Limit
Open the edit mode of the board and click on the gear settings icon that belongs to every column in your process.
Enter a number to define the limit in the respective field.
The WIP limit number becomes visible at the column header of the respective column in your board.
- Set up a limit per group of columns (CONWIP)
In this scenario, you have a column (for example, "In Progress") that has three sub-columns.
In this case, the system allows you to set up a limit for the main column.
Go to the edit workflow page and click the gear settings icon of the main column to input the CONWIP limit. This will be the total limit for the three columns.
- Set up a CELL WIP limit
You can also set up a WIP limit on a particular cell. A cell is an intersection between a column and a swim lane on your Kanban board. Each limit has a gear icon to hold the limit you specify.
- Set up a Swimlane WIP Limit
The system allows you to set up a Swimlane Limit by using the respective gear icon.
In general, you create swim lanes to differentiate classes of work, priorities, SLAs, etc.
To learn more about the swimlanes' practical implementation, you can check out the dedicated blog article.
With the swim lane limit, you control the number of cards allowed in the "In progress" area of the board. This allows you to manage the distribution of your team capacity across the different work types and/or classes of service. In the Kanban domain, this is called "Capacity Allocation".
For example, you can allocate 20% of the available capacity to change requests, 60% to regulatory requirements, and 20% to unplanned, expedited work.
* Open the image in a new tab to get a closer view.
- Set up a USER WIP Limit
In Kanbanize, you can set up a WIP limit per user. You perform this action from the User Management panel in the Account Administration menu.
Note: this action is only available for Account Owners and users with the "Manage User WIP limits" admin role.
The dedicated panel provides a list of all team members In Kanbanize.
*Open the image in a new tab to get a closer view.
The "Current Cards" column shows the actual distribution of cards per area, which are currently assigned to the users. The letters stand for:
G - Global level*, B - Backlog, R - Requested, P - In Progress, D - Done, and A - Archive.
*The Global limit represents the maximum number of cards that can be assigned to a person on the account level.
The "WIP Limits" column displays the WIP limits that you have configured for each of the areas.
The "Exceed Limits" column displays if a user can exceed the WIP limit or not.
Please note that Initiatives (from the Initiatives or Timeline workflows) will not be counted in the User WIP limit. The calculation would only consider standard cards (from the Cards Workflows).
4. How to configure the WIP limit per user?
Hover over the "Exceed Limits" cell of the selected user and click on the pencil icon to make all sections editable.
You can define if the limits can be exceeded or not using the controls at the bottom of the panel.
There are two options:
- Always allow
- Always deny
You can read more about the WIP Limit concept and its practical implementation in the dedicated article.