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Setting Work-In-Process (WIP) Limits

LeanKit's step-by-step guide on how to set Work-In-Process (WIP) limits. 

Work-In-Process (“WIP”) limits restrict how much work can be assigned at one time to a single person, team, or stage in a process. WIP limits are a key component of Kanban. Limiting WIP contributes to better focus, clearer communication, and more realistic analysis and projection.

In LeanKit, you can set WIP limits to control the number of cards that can be loaded into one lane or assigned to one user. By using limits, you can ensure that one team, or one individual, does not get overloaded with work-in-process. You’ll also gain more granularity and accuracy in your metrics.

Limiting Work in Process (WIP) is perhaps the core concept in a mature Kanban implementation. Limiting Work In Process prevents overloading your process or people with more work than can be performed.

In higher editions of LeanKit you can limit WIP for a user and for a lane. WIP limits can be either calculated by the number of cards or by the cumulative card sizes.

 

Lane WIP Limits

WIP limits can also be placed on the lanes/sublanes/and swimlanes within the board. These limit the number of work items that can be placed within the lane, sub-lane, or swimlane. All WIP limits are enforced at the level that they are specified but also roll up to the parent lane's limit. This roll up is performed all the way to the top level.

For example, say the parent lane In Development has a WIP limit of 3, while the child lanes Ready and In Process each have a WIP limit of 2. When a work item is moved into Ready, first the limit is checked on this lane. If the limit is not exceeded on this lane, the parent's WIP limit is checked. If any of the WIP limits are exceeded, an override reason must be supplied. In this example, if another work item is moved into Ready, the WIP limit of the parent lane In Development would be exceeded.

 

To set a lane’s WIP limit:

  • Click the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the board to reveal a dropdown menu.
  • Click Board Settings.
  • Click Board Board Layout Editor.
  • Change the WIP limit for a lane by entering the desired limit in the field Limit: in that lane's header. To remove an existing WIP limit, enter a zero (0) in the field. A limit of zero (0) means that there is no limit to the amount of cards (or card size total) that can be in that lane at one time.

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When you move a card into a lane, LeanKit checks to see if you have exceeded the WIP limit for that lane. If so, LeanKit raises a warning letting the user know that this limit has been reached.

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In the warning dialog, you must enter a reason why you are exceeding the limit. This enforces the WIP limit, but provides the flexibility for explicitly allowed exceptions. The reason the user provides will be stored in the card’s history. If you click Cancel, the card is not moved and a red-box notification shows at the top of the board.

 

WIP Limits by Card Size

You can set the WIP limits for the board to be based on card size in the board settings menu. This will apply to any user WIP limits on this board also.

Make sure that the Exclude Completed Lanes and Archive from User WIP and Finish Date Violations in the board settings menu is checked or unchecked according to your preference.

 

User WIP Limits

In LeanKit, you can set WIP limits on users within a board to limit the number of cards that can be assigned to that user. This can be helpful in ensuring that an individual is not assigned too many work items at any given time.

 

To set a WIP limit for a user:

  • Click the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the board to reveal a dropdown menu.
  • Click Board Settings.

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  • Click Board User Access.
  • Then click the check mark next to the user(s) you'd like to edit and click Edit Selected at the bottom of the window. 

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  • To set or change this user’s WIP limit on this board, type the desired limit into the field. This will be the maximum number of cards this user can be assigned on this board (unless you override it and enter a reason). This number will instead be the maximum cumulative card size this user can be assigned if the appropriate box is checked on the Board Settings tab.

    • To remove an existing WIP limit, enter a zero (0) in the field. A limit of zero (0) means that there is no limit to the amount of cards (or card size total) that can be assigned to that user at one time.
  • Click Save.

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Doc ID: 1191983339

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