Struggling with velocity and need to improve it quickly? Instead of analyzing what's taking time, try this instead.

Work-in-progress rears its ugly head when you know that your team is drowning in work because you never put your foot down to any incoming requests. - @Dominica DeGrandis

My go-to tool for teams struggling with their velocity is to help them learn to manage their work-in-progress (WIP).

What's the definition of work-in-progress or WIP?

It is all the work that you have started but not yet finished. You know you have too much WIP when:

  • there is a lot of context switching
  • your team starts new tasks before finishing old tasks
  • work ages quickly

Why can reducing WIP make your team faster?

John Little published a paper in the field of Queue Theory which proved the following:

Avg Cycle Time = WIP / Throughput

The Average Cycle Time is the time it takes to finish a piece of work, which in essence, is our team velocity.

We can take from this that the lower the WIP, the shorter it takes to get things done.

Why focus on managing WIP?

As managers, there are things you can't control:

  • you can't control how much work arrives at our team
  • you can't control how much it does take a team member to finish a piece of work

But you can manage priorities and context-switching. You can influence when the team starts a new piece of work.

That's why by managing and reducing WIP, you can help your team to improve velocity quickly.

Matias Lespiau

Matias Lespiau

Madrid, Spain