Why Limit WIP

Everywhere I go, people are suffering from overload. Information, workload, emotional load, political load … all above capacity.

People, probably you as well, start sentence with, “If only I had time to…” or “If I could just…” or “If I were in charge I’d….”

We all feel stretched to the point of snapping.


In the office, this overload means missed deadlines, unnecessary meetings, unnecessary production, and over commitment. All of those things add up to unhappy workers, attrition, and delay.

Delay in that last sentence is misleading. This is not “Harold is a little delayed and will be here in five minutes,” No no no … Delay here means millions of dollars wasted, products not delivered, and careers ruined.

Delay here also means punitive measure to get projects on track, that usually lead to even more delays.

We respond to delays with demands, which is like drinking your way out of drowning.

The only way to finish more work is to only take on as much as your organization can process.

When your work-in-process rises, your rate of completion lowers. It’s very simple math.

Our new book, Why Limit WIP, takes this problem head-on.  The book follows the movements of Eldred, our office everyman, as he is valued, overloaded, devalued, and then later rescued. Eldred shows us how people, teams, and organizations react to overload … and what to do about it.

Right now, I’d be willing to bet your company is doing too much work and creating too little value. As businesses, we don’t survive without creating value … funny thing … the same is true for us as individuals.

Effectiveness scales.

Buy it now!

Personal Kanban Wins the Shingo Prize

Shingo EmblemPersonal Kanban won a Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence this year. This is the highest honor in Lean and we share the award with some pretty august company.

This award is humbling. Shingo awards are usually focused on manufacturing or applications of specific Lean principles with many direct nods to Toyota.

Personal Kanban is strongly rooted in Lean ideals, but it much more focused (as the name implies) on the individual – on us as people.

Tonianne and I are greatly energized by this award and look forward to seeing Personal Kanban continue to grow and thrive.

Read about it on CBS News and the Lean Systems Society sites.

Beyond Agile: Tales of Continuous Improvement Published

Beyond AgileAfter two years of hard work by Maritza van den Heuvel and Joanne Ho, we are excited to announce the Kindle publication of Beyond Agile: Tales of Continuous Improvement. Beyond Agile is:

  • Case Studies in Lean/Agile teams involved in continuous improvement
  • Examinations in the use of visual controls like kanban for knowledge workers
  • Truthful and sometimes painful stories of teams and organizations working for better process

Presented through 10 case studies spread over four continents, Beyond Agile shows that process improvement is owned by no single process, no single school of thought, and no single culture. Whether in India, Spain, South Africa, or the United States, these teams of knowledge workers faced very similar problems, but in very different political, economic, and social environments. Their path of continuous improvement, however, was universal.

These teams saw problems and attempted to fix them. Sometimes with great success, sometimes requiring they go back and try again. But they did not simply complain or ignore the issues.

Many of these stories build on Corey Ladas' book, Scrumban.

The print version of this book is due out in April 2013.

Personal note from Jim Benson:

Maritza and Joanne poured a lot of effort into getting this book to publication. I want to personally thank them and congratulate them, but also ...

Please! From you two things:

(1) Tweet the heck out of this post (see twitter link below)

(2) Congratulate Joanne and Maritza in the comments here.

.. and, of course, check out the book.

The Client Management A3: Modus Cooperandi White Paper #2

Client Management A3 White Paper Cover Lean thinkers seek systemic causes to workplace or project issues. The goal is to find procedural or functional root causes to unpopular behaviors or outcomes. Psychologists warn us of Fundamental Attribution Error, a common human bias that leads us to blame before we analyze.

Lean uses the A3 as a tool to examine problems, hypothesize solutions, and then run experiments to test those hypotheses.

But sometimes, people might actually be the system we want to fix.

In software development, there is the notion of the Persona - which helps software developers build empathy and understanding for those unlucky enough to use their software. At a recent client engagement, we combined Personas with an A3 to some interesting results.

This paper is the result of that endeavor.

The Client Management A3 White Paper is available from Amazon.

Modus Cooperandi White Paper: Kanban: Diversity and Optimization of Knowledge Working Teams


Announcing the publication of Kanban: Diversity and Optimization of Knowledge Working Teams – a new Modus Cooperandi White Paper.

Late in 2012, we conducted a Board Walk (a site visit where we meet with teams using kanban or Personal Kanban and help them optimize the board and the team itself) at a client in the United States.  There were 15 individual teams, each of which had its own individually designed boards. Each board had a unique value stream, work item types, policies, and methods for judging completeness and quality.

Both management and the teams were frustrated because they hadn’t yet found a board design that worked for the entire company. They were looking for standardization.

However, each of these boards were, in some way, optimized for each individual team. Each team had its own context and these boards related specifically to that context. Each team was also actively improving their boards on a regular basis – meaning that optimization was continuing.

This white paper contrasts many of these boards, showing the differences in design of each board and the ramifications of those variations.

A PDF of this is available for organizations requiring a bulk purchase. Please write.

Scrumban by Corey Ladas

Buy Scrumban!  

Corey Ladas' groundbreaking paper "ScrumBan" launched hundreds of software development teams on the path from iterations to flow.

Scrumban does not prescribe this transition, because each team has its own process needs. But if you are moving from Agile methods to Lean, Scrumban is the book that started it all.

Kanban also provides a powerful mechanism to identify process improvement opportunities. This book covers some of the metrics and day-to-day management techniques that make continuous improvement an achievable outcome in the real world.

ScrumBan the book provides a series of essays that give practitioners the background needed to create more robust practices combining the best of agile and lean.


Buy your own copy of  Scrumban