Finally, by having fewer work items in process, then the team is able to focus more on the larger goals, and less on individual tasks, thus encouraging a swarming effect, and enhancing teamwork. Limiting WIP like this can seem unusual for teams, and there is often a worry that team members will be idle because they having no work to do, but are unable to pull any new work. The following guidelines, in priority order, can be useful to help in this situation.
- Work directly on existing work to progress it
- Collaborate with team members on existing work to remove a bottleneck
- Begin working on new work if capacity is available
- Find some other useful work
When team members have to find some other useful work then “bubbles of slack” are formed around the work. This creates opportunities for improvement without needing to schedule them with techniques such as Gold Cards. This can be work which won’t create any work downstream, but will improve future productivity and can be paused as soon as existing kanban slots become available. Investigative work such as technology spikes, refactoring or tool automation, and personal development or innovation work, are all activities which might help the team in the future.
“Recipe” for what to work on next:
1. Can you help progress an existing kanban?
Work on that.
2. Can’t do that?
Find bottleneck and work to release it.
3. Can’t do that either?
Do work which
– won’t create any work downstream,
– will improve future throughput and
– can be paused as soon as existing kanban related work is available.