Work in Progress (WIP) in an Agile World

What is Work In Progress (WIP)? You must be familiar with the acronym WIP (Work In Progress), some of us provide the status report as WIP, some use WIP in meetings, some say in casual conversations.So what does ‘Work In Progress’ really mean – it’s about getting more done in the near future but doing less now. Here is a simple example of Work in progress tasks on Kanban board.

KanbanboardtoomuchinprogressImage: By Dr ian mitchellOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons

If you are a project leader, a project manager or on the team of agile marketers, how would you respond to a status report of ‘WIP’, knowing that a project task has been commenced but it is not complete!

How do you manage WIP (Work In Progress) status with a goal to start finishing?

For example, If you were writing a blog, then you had to check your email, then had to meet a friend over coffee, then had to run errands to make supper, by the end of the day you haven’t achieved anything if you haven’t finished the task you started. No one is perfect, we all have WIP list in our work and personal lives. On a lighter note – In 2002 Alan Jackson an American singer and songwriter released an album called ‘Work In Progress’, watch and enjoy this light mood video.

On professional front-How can we scale work in progress in an agile environment? One of the most important aspects scaling agility with project progress is to develop processes to maximize the workflow from portfolio level to individual project group level, prioritize and establish roles. Be mindful that repetitive work for similar projects could cost time and money. Such workflows are good candidates for workflow optimization. It’s critical to revisit workflow processes and be able to adapt to new digital technologies. This also opens up new avenues to bring in digital transformation and business agility.

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Why manage and Limit WIP (Work In Progress)? –Because you will have 100% focus on the task you are working on and when it is done, you will feel different and feel good about it. You are now ready to start the next task. In terms of bigger tasks or projects, instead of getting it done over a couple of hours in one day, you could spread the work across 10-15 hours over the week and provide equal attention towards your other commitments.

Recommend to maintain a WIP log book and have 4 columns drawn for Tasks – In Progress – Blocked – Done. Also, limit how much work you are getting done each day and ensure that you do not jump to the next one unless you finished what you started.


Benefits of Limiting WIP– To understand the benefits in depth, I recommend you to read Why Limit WIP: We Are Drowning in Work, written by Jim Benson. In this book, he writes and explains how finishing valuable tasks first without being distracted benefits in the long run. This book is a good read and is available on Amazon to purchase.

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