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Limit Your Work In Progress!

When I came out with this title I realised that it is completely in opposition to a title of a great post by Paweł Brodziński that was published almost a year ago. While I agree that having the right behaviours in place in a team is the goal, it’s important to understand the pitfalls of having too much in progress. The topic has been discussed bazillion times already, yet I’d like to add to it by allowing you to experience it by playing with a simulator. I’ve learned that this is more helpful than just talking about Little’s Law.

But before we discuss Little’s Law, let’s take a look at other aspects of having too much work in progress, that are also very important.


Multitasking is quite a popular topic, which has been studied by many scientists. Studies differ in their conclusions – some state that you can lose 10 IQ points due to distractions like notifications, some say that because of context switching you can produce lower quality products, others focus on impact to learning ability, another points out the amounts of stress caused by this phenomena. All those studies have one thing in common – multitasking is counterproductive. If you’re interested in more detail, check out Wikipedia or this article.

To see that in action, you can try a little exercise (originally published by Dave Crenshaw): Continue reading Limit Your Work In Progress!

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Kanban Flow Simulator – First Blood

Managing flow is not easy and sometimes counter-intuitive. Limiting work in progress will decrease lead time while not affecting throughput – really? You should reduce variability in the input to increase predictability of your system – always? You can hear about such principles here and there. There are mathematical models available to deduce if that advice is right or wrong, but they are very complex, as the system we’re dealing with is very complex. Lots of things are happening at the same time – variable tasks size, variable entry times, variable team size, skills, limits, priorities, value…

When I decided that I wanted to learn more about those principles (after reading a book by Donald G. Reinertsen: The Principles of Product Development Flow) I realised that solving the related mathematical puzzle was probably too hard for me. The other thing I was concerned about was that I wasn’t sure if, when successful, I would be able to explain and convince others quickly about my findings. So an idea came to my mind – a flow simulator. A simulator, where anyone could easily be able to play with all the variables and observe the outcomes. Where anyone could instantly see the outcomes of limiting WIP, decreasing variability, pair programming, multitasking, different prioritisation methods and so on.

After a month of evenings working, the first version of the Kanban Flow Simulator is available here.

Continue reading Kanban Flow Simulator – First Blood

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