2 Approaches to Handle Impediments in Kanban

In Kanban the number of work items in progress is limited. So what should we do if tight WIP-Limits and blocked work items impede the flow of work? Here are two approaches suggested by David J. Anderson in his book about Kanban.

How to Handle Blocked Work Items

Kanban systems bring visibility to problems and their impact. Handling impediments can be done in different ways, depending on the maturity of the organisation or team.

Two approaches can be used:

  • Larger Overall WIP-Limit
  • Stop the Line

Larger Overall WIP-Limit

Recommended for immature organisations

  • Strategy:
    • explicit buffering
    • increased WIP-limit (people can work on something else in case an item is blocked)
  • Disadvantages of increased WIP-limit:
    • lead time will be longer
    • quality might be lower
    • less/no tension to provoke discussion and implementation of improvements, which means the catalytic effect of kanban is lost!

Stop the Line

Recommended for mature teams familiar with root cause analysis

  • Strategy:
    • tight policies, WIP-limits and buffer sizes
    • stop the work when things come blocked
  • Advantage:
    • idle people due to blockages raises awareness
    • swarming to remove the blockage
    • creates a culture of focussed continuous improvement


Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business by David J. Anderson

This blog is a digital memory for me. I store nuggets of information, ideas and resources on these pages so that I can access and share them easily at any time, from everywhere. I always felt a strong passion for continuous improvement and that is why I am now super happy to be a professional Scrum Master. Scrum, Kanban, Agile Project Management, Coaching, Learning and Self Management are my passions and that is also what my blog is about ...

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