WIP series: Episode 2 - A Guide to WIP Limits


Ramyaa Seetharaman





Read Time

10 mins

Hey, fabulous people! There are some persistent myths about WIP limits, despite their clear advantages. These myths can cause misunderstandings and keep businesses from reaping the rewards of putting WIP limits in place. So, let's talk about how WIP limits can make your work life better by busting some of the common myths! 

Some folks might believe that WIP limits put a damper on creativity and hold back innovation by restricting the amount of work in progress. But guess what? That's not the case! In reality, WIP limits help teams focus on the most important tasks and make progress on them more efficiently and effectively. By completing more work in less time, this opens more room for creativity and innovation.

Think about it this way: imagine a client comes to a graphic designer and asks for four new designs. If the designer starts working on all four designs at once, they may feel overwhelmed and stressed with so much work in progress. But if the designer uses a WIP limit of two designs at a time, they can prioritize their work and concentrate on finishing the first two before moving on to the next two. This way, the designer can give each design the attention it deserves, and who knows, they may even come up with some fresh and innovative ideas along the way!

WIP limits are often misunderstood, but they are great for enhancing progress and delivery timelines. They decrease the time required to complete tasks and increase overall effectiveness by reducing the amount of work in progress. Picture a software development team without WIP limits; everyone is working on multiple projects, leading to errors, missed deadlines, and slower progress. However, when there is a WIP limit in place, team members can concentrate on fewer tasks, resulting in better quality work, fewer mistakes, and faster progress. This is because limiting work in progress allows for significant progress on each task, leading to better outcomes.

If you think WIP limits are only for manufacturing companies, you couldn't be more wrong! WIP limits can be applied in any type of work process, regardless of the size of the organization. In healthcare, WIP limits can be a game-changer. Take a busy emergency department, for instance. By setting a WIP limit, the healthcare team can ensure that they are taking on only a manageable number of patients at a time. This helps reduce wait times, improve patient satisfaction, and prevent burnout. With the right WIP limit, the healthcare team can manage the flow of patients and ensure that resources are being used efficiently, resulting in better patient care. 

Some people think that WIP limits are only relevant for big companies, but that's not true! WIP limits can be applied to any team size and can be a powerful tool for increasing productivity and reducing waste. For instance, a small beauty salon with three stylists can implement a WIP limit of six clients at any given time. This ensures that each customer receives enough attention and that resources, such as stylists, are used effectively. By applying WIP limits, the salon can avoid overworking its stylists, reducing errors or delays, and enhancing the overall customer experience, resulting in a more successful and efficient business.

Some people believe that WIP limits are inflexible and rigid, but that's not the case at all! WIP limits can be adjusted over time based on changes in the team's capacity or the scope of the work. It is important to regularly review the WIP limit to ensure that it is still effective and that the team can work efficiently and effectively within the limit.

Let me give it a shot with this example:  At this large bank, WIP limits have proven to be an effective tool for managing customer transactions and delivering high levels of customer satisfaction. Each teller has a WIP limit for the number of transactions they can handle based on factors such as time and workload. But the best part is that the WIP limit is not set in stone. In response to changes in workload, the bank can adjust the WIP limit to ensure optimal efficiency and customer satisfaction. This means that any organization can benefit from flexible and adaptive WIP limits to achieve success.

So, there you have it, folks! Debunking the myths about WIP limits. Use WIP limits as a tool to improve productivity, reduce waste, and optimize resources. WIP limits can give you a better work-life balance, allowing you to focus on what really matters and enjoy more creativity and innovation in your work. Try it out and see the benefits for yourself!