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Our company has five distinct process competencies: UX, web, desktop, data-mining and QA with a fixed number of engineers in each role. The tools that each of these uses are quite different: photoshop, PHP, QT/C++, Hadoop, Watir/Sakuli.

I've been trying to set WIP limits on each of these roles based on development capacity, but we realise that our engineers are also involved in the specification phase, but not in a clearly defined way. On a given day a dev will be doing work on a specified ticket, and also working with a product manager on creating the specification backlog.

I'm guessing that in the end the important thing is to visualise the work in flight, the flow and to see where there are constraints.

My understanding is that Kanban is a map of the software production process, and as with any map it has to leave out some fine grained details. The important thing is that it must give a good representation of the aspects that are critical to delivery.

Should I be overly concerned about the split nature of the work that our devs are doing?

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One thing you should remember, when working with Kanban is that Kanban board should reflect the reality. In your case not only are engineers working on their regular stuff but also on tasks (specs, product management etc.) This basically means you should show this, which probably ends up having your limits a bit more loose, so I as an engineer can work at the same time on php task and helping product manager with the specs.

Once you get it working you may think whether and why to change limits, or generally board design, so you change people behavior for the better. What more, you may want to experiment a bit with your board trying to see what works for you and what doesn't. You may end up finding a way to limit multitasking a bit, but it's also possible that specifics of your process requires a lot of multitasking and you're perfectly fine with it.

Either way, don't make the board lying to you, representing something different than you really do in your team.

By the way: for dealing with different types of tasks on Kanban board you might want to use classes of service, which is basically design dedicated to deal with such situations.

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You might try dividing your board into swimlanes and set up a separate WIP limit for each swimlane.

  • 1
    Hi Michael, welcome to PMSE! The goal of our site is to act as a resource for professional and enthusiast project managers for years to come. While answers posted should help solve the original poster's problem, it should also serve as a reference for future visitors to this page. To make sure that your answer is useful to people less familiar with the problem, consider adding more details to your answer, such as why you believe this is the right course of action. Welcome to PMSE, and good luck! – jmort253 Jun 6 '12 at 19:40

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