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What value should you choose for the jira kanban WIP limits ?

For a team that is new to agile: what value should you choose for the jira kanban WIP limit ?

Is it:

  • 1 item per team member, e.g. 6 team members  = WIP of 6 ?
  • 1 item per team member + 1, e.g. 6 team members  = WIP of 7 ?
  • twice the team size, e.g. 6 team members  = WIP of 12 ?
  • or how else?

2 answers

0 votes

Hi Gary,

Best practices recommend to have WIP limits below the number of team members, to foster collaboration and to "force" (I mean encourage) team members to work on tasks of different types (e.g. development, testing, code reviews, setting up a lab, etc.). Having WIP limits set to a number that is higher than the number of team members could result in multi-tasking which your team should avoid at all costs if possible,

This article may help:

From the article: "When rolling out a new workflow, make a team decision to determine the WIP limits for each status. We recommend setting WIP limits after monitoring the average number of work items in each status for a few sprints. Below is a sample agile board with WIP limits used by a typical software development team. (...) 

As a best practice, some teams set the maximum WIP limit below the number of team members. The idea is to bake in room for good agile practices. If a developer finishes an item, but the team is already at their WIP limit, they know it's time to knock out a few code reviews or join another developer for some pair programming."

Hope it helps,


0 votes
Mirek Community Leader Mar 06, 2018

When using Kanban you should avoid blockers in the flow but on the other hand do not overload one specific group while other sits and "do nothing". The limits that you will use should change. You should observe and check if your workflow is not stuck on some limit. Then simply change it. There is not "golden rule" for that. It depends on your team skills.

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