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Kanban Change Leadership: Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement by Klaus Leopold, Siegfried Kaltenecker

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4 WIP LIMITS

It’s a very seductive premise indeed: the employees can surely do this one job quickly and should be able to manage that one too, and they’re bound to manage to fit in this, that, and the other few work items somewhere along the line as well. But the problem is that in an organization there normally isn’t only one rather spontaneous client; there frequently are many. Clients who themselves normally work to other people’s demands—such as external customers—or have become victims of their own time management fall into this category. You can fill a funnel to the brim but that doesn’t mean more water will flow through it. Quite the opposite: there’s the danger that some will spill over, to be lost and forgotten.

In our consultancy practice, this sometimes leads to curious results. One of the teams we worked with revived work that had lain dormant in their backlog for 3 years, although it had been assigned a “high priority.” This is the fate of many work items that are submitted to a team: after having been considered urgent at the start, they lie for months or years on end without anyone giving a hoot about them. In order to spare the development or Kanban team’s nerves, and above all to lead an organization with good business sense, such operating styles should be avoided at all costs; they are a particularly frequent form of waste. In Chapter 2, we established that it is far more economically expedient to bring one work item to 100% completion than ten work ...

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