kanban musing

Here's a typical kanban board; three vertical sections, each with a work-in-progress wip-limit, each split into two sections; Ongoing work on the left, Done work on the right. I've been thinking about the Done columns. Specifically, the fact that they are labelled Done. You see, Analysis's Done is Development's Backlog. And Development's Done is Acceptance's Backlog. So none of the Done's are really done. Not done-done. Why are they labelled Done? Why not Backlog? Or donelog? The labelling seems to reflect a push mentality. I wonder whether there is a better way to draw and label them. One that places equal weight on removing items from the queue. One that would help to suggest a more connected process. Perhaps draw it between Development and Acceptance but inside neither?

I've also been pondering the label "wip-limit". In the picture above, Development has a wip-limit of 3. That strikes me as a bit odd. Development's limit of 3 is really a combination of a work-in-progress-limit for its left-half Ongoing column, and a work-not-in-progress-limit for its right-half Done column. Since Development's right-half Done column is also Acceptance's Backlog why does Acceptance not have a say on that part of the limit?

Even the word itself "wip" conjures an image of frenetic activity. A fast moving, whip cracking wip. Can't we have another word for the limit on the work that is not in progress? One that conjures an image of stillness? Any ideas? After all, as Don Reinersten says

making activities more efficient is much less important than eliminating inactivity


  1. Done = Available?
    WIP limit could be indicated by rows, so for example up to 3 rows in Development/Ongoing can be occupied, pulled from Analysis/Available. No numerics needed, just space on the board.
    "Available" items piling up would reveal the bottlenecks.

  2. Hi Bob,
    I like available. Thanks.
    Re space/rows on the board - yes - this is very similar to the idea of representing actual kanban on the board that I blogged about earlier here http://jonjagger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/heathrow-security-scan-kanban.html