Quick, actionable tips

Limit Work In Progress (WIP)

Agile road full of Work In Progress that is blocking the team from achieving a high velocity.
Limit Work In Progress (WIP). Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash.

Work In Progress (WIP) is the enemy of Agility. Agile means to deliver early, get feedback first, fail quickly and learn early—timing matters.

Think about Agility as a high-speed motorway. You have a great car (your Agile team), and you know you can get to your destination fast. You want to make the most out of it. You want to reach your goal in no time.

Now imagine that you ended up on the road with a lot of traffic. How does it feel?

Frustrated, low in energy, demotivated.

That’s how it feels when your team board (Scrum or Kanban board) is full, and nothing gets done.

Here are my actionable tips to limit work in progress:

  • During the Sprint Planning, create sub-tasks for each user story to describe how the Scrum Team will implement, test, and deploy the functionality described in the user story.
  • During the Daily Scrum, make sure you review yesterday’s planned actions against the user stories or tasks that were done yesterday. That will be a straightforward way of spotting the delays.
  • During the Daily Standup, discuss how to finish the work in progress. Try to share work, help each other.
  • Create a weekly plan on what we will achieve as a Scrum Team
  • Every sprint and every day, the team members take personal ownership of the actions to help the team achieve the sprint goals.
  • During the Sprint Planning, set sprint goals and stimulate each other to deliver business value with more user stories done.
  • Involve the Product Owner to review and accept the user stories as soon as they are implemented.
  • Communicate with the Product Owner and the Scrum Master on HOW the user story is implemented. Teach them the technical insights to evaluate the “little” improvement ideas that may lead to more development work for the team.
  • Show the number of items that are in progress. A visual representation helps the Scrum Team to realize they should do something about it.
  • At every retrospective count, the number of story points that team could have got if they had finished all those Work In Progress user stories. Every time I did this to the teams I coached, it motivated them to get user stories done.



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