Chapter 5. Work in process

This chapter covers

  • Introducing the concept of work in process (WIP)
  • The effects of a lot of work in process
  • How to limit work in process

Work in process (WIP) is a phrase that you’ll hear a lot in the kanban community or when reading about Lean. WIP seems to be something that you don’t want or at least want as little of as possible, so you often hear kanban aficionados talking about “limiting” WIP.

This chapter will help you to understand what WIP is, what could happen if you allow a lot of WIP in your process, and, finally, some ways to help you to limit work in process.

5.1. Understanding work in process

In this section, we’ll dissect the concept called work in process. First let’s talk a bit about the abbreviation WIP and how it can be interpreted. WIP has at least two different meanings:

Work in progress

Work in process

Both of these meanings are widely used in the Lean literature. We happened to pick up “in process” from the literature we read as we learned about Lean and kanban. Throughout this book we’re using work in process, but you can exchange it for in progress if you like.

5.1.1. What is work in process?

Work in process means all the work that you have going on right now. That includes work you’re actively working on right now, work items waiting to be verified or deployed, and also the work sitting in your inbox that you haven’t started yet: all the unfinished things you need to do in order to deliver value to the end customer.

5.2. Effects of too much WIP

5.3. Summary