Kanban’s Second Rule

Limit work in progress.


On the Kanban board, columns that represent work should have “work in progress” limits. With a WIP limit in place, the number of tickets that can move into that status should be limited. Before another ticket can be added to a column at the limit, an existing ticket needs to be moved out of the column.

For example, say you have columns for “primary development”, “code review”, and “QA”. Maybe for this example, you set a WIP limit of 8 to the “code review” column. The intent here is that if there are 8 tickets already in code review, then good grief! Don’t do more new development work. Instead, get some code reviews done. Otherwise, tickets may pile up endlessly in the “code review” column.

The whole point of Kanban is to increase the flow. To do this, you need to limit the number of tickets can be in a particular state that represents work.

In a similar line of thought, you should avoid multitasking. Each person should try to work on only one ticket at a time. Maintain your focus on one thing. Minimize interruptions.

Stop starting and start finishing. Done is so much better than in progress.

Don’t create technical debt as a shortcut. All this does is move a ticket forward by creating a new ticket. Is that really progress?

Break larger stories into smaller ones. When stories are large, it takes them forever to move from one state to the next. Smaller stories move more quickly, are easier to test, and sooner released.

Every work effort must have a ticket, and all active work must be represented on the board. If you don’t do this, your Kanban board doesn’t reflect the true state of the team, and it loses its usefulness.

Follow this advice and your board will have tickets flowing across it.