How to Set WIP Limits in LeanKit

LeanKit work-in-process (WIP) limits help constrain how much work can be applied to specific stages in your process (i.e., to lanes) or to individuals (i.e., to users). A key component of Kanban, WIP limits are designed to help prevent bottlenecks that hinder the continuous flow of work in a system.  LeanKit’s easy WIP limit setup — and visual indicators that identify when limits have been met or exceeded — can help you pave the way to limiting your WIP.

How to Assign WIP Limits to a Stage in Your Process

To set WIP limits for a lane, go to the Settings icon and click on Board Layout Editor.

Access WIP Limit setup using the Board Layout Editor

Access WIP Limit setup using the Board Layout Editor

The circled areas below indicate the fields where you can set limits on lanes and sublanes.

Set WIP limits in lanes to improve flow

Set WIP limits in lanes to improve flow

Set your desired limits and click Save. You can easily come back and adjust these settings at any time.

Set your desired WIP limits and click Save

Set your desired WIP limits and click Save

When you reach your WIP limit, the lane background changes and the WIP limit number in the right hand corner of the lane appears in red.

Visual indicators show you when WIP Limits are met

Visual indicators show you when WIP Limits are met

Pulling a new card into a lane that is already at the WIP limit triggers a warning and a dialog box.

Enter a reason in the dialog box why the WIP limit should be exceeded

Enter a reason in the dialog box why the WIP limit should be exceeded

To exceed the WIP limit for this lane, enter a reason in the dialog box and click Accept. The lane will now appear red, and the reason will be stored in the card’s history for reference. This action provides the flexibility for explicitly allowed exceptions and alerts the rest of the team.

Visual indicators clearly show when WIP Limits have been exceeded

Visual indicators clearly show when WIP Limits have been exceeded

How to Assign WIP Limits to an Individual

To assign WIP limits to an individual, go to the Settings icon on the top of your board, click Board Settings in the drop-down menu and then click User Access. Next, click the Edit icon next to the user who needs a WIP limit.

Access WIP Limit setup for individuals using the User Access option under Settings

Access WIP Limit setup for individuals using the User Access option under Settings

From here, you can easily set and modify individual WIP limits.

Set your desired individual WIP limits and click Save

Set your desired individual WIP limits and click Save

LeanKit warns you when an individual’s limit is being exceeded as you assign a new card to them. Similar to a lane WIP limit override, the same type of dialog box appears for you to provide an explanation, which will be saved to the card upon clicking Accept.

Enter a reason in the dialog box why the WIP limit should be exceeded

Enter a reason in the dialog box why the WIP limit should be exceeded

By setting WIP limits in LeanKit, you can easily identify bottlenecks and impediments to your flow so you can improve your personal, team and organizational effectiveness. Give WIP limits a try and add a new dimension to your work.

For more information on WIP limit theory and application, check out:

5 thoughts on “How to Set WIP Limits in LeanKit

  1. Hi there,
    Currently reading Kanban in action.
    Is it possible to set a limit on the board globally, or is it only possible at the column level?

  2. There’s no “the Board can only have this many Cards” limit that would apply to all Users and all Lanes, but you can set a User WIP limit which applies to the whole Board, for that User. Hope this helps. Please let us know if you need additional clarification.

  3. It looks as though WIP limits also seem to be in effect for users when they have cards that are assigned to them, but are in a lane that has a status of ‘Ready’. This doesn’t seem to make sense as the work is technically not ‘In Progress’ for the person working on it. Is there a mechanism to have a column other than Archive not count towards a person’s WIP limit when the card is assigned to the individual in that column?

  4. Hi, Guillaume — I’m not sure I understand your question, so I’ve asked Support to contact you at the email you provided. You should see an email from them soon, if not already.


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