Shipbuilding - an agile workshop for the WIP-curious

A 90 minute Workshop by:

Will Jacobs


Martyn Frank


Download the slides

The slides used for this session are available to download here.

About this Workshop

The ideal audience for this workshop will have some experience with kanban, and be curious or sceptical about the relevance of WIP limits and slack time.

In the workshop, the audience will actively participate in a flow system running under two sets of processing policies, and draw conclusions from what they experience. The idea is that slack time and WIP can vary under the different policies, even though throughput remains the same.

Will Jacobs (NewVoiceMedia) will guide the conversation towards several key topics, and the facilitators will ask the participants to think about several "what if" scenarios.

The workshop takes the following format.

The group is formed into a production line consisting of one person per workstation (for more than 10 people, two groups will be formed). Two experiments will be run, in which the groups will work as part of a production line.

In the first experiment, the groups work under a push-based flow policy, meaning that work is pushed into the system as quickly as possible, and there are no limits to the number of items in the system. In the second experiment, we will apply a WIP-limited, pull-based flow policy where work can only move through the system when there is capacity. For both experiments, we will gather metrics such as WIP, throughput, and lead time.

We will then review the output from the experiments. This is an opportunity to examine:

  • flow of work - what is a flow system?
  • different policies
  • push vs pull
  • unlimited vs WIP-controlled
  • stable vs unstable systems
  • effort in both cases
  • slack time
  • throughput in both cases
  • bottlenecks and the Theory of Constraints
  • value delivered in both cases
  • how is this defined (no $$$ until the product ships!)
  • lead time
  • Little's law
  • systems thinking

About the Speakers

Will Jacobs

Will Jacobs is a Scrum Master at NewVoiceMedia. For over 15 years, Will developed software in the financial services, secure back-office payments and telecommunications industries. Upon joining NewVoiceMedia, Will discovered agile, and traded development for scrum mastery. He has found his true purpose in this world: enabling great DevOps teams to collaborate, deliver and improve, powered by agile techniques. His spare time is spent losing at board games, taming his children and avoiding most forms of exercise. Though he has been able to talk for the majority of his life, Will is a new conference speaker.


Martyn Frank

Martyn Frank is a scrum master at NewVoiceMedia, where he helps teams excel and become self-organising. He began his career in the British Army, later falling in love with agile while working as a developer.

Martyn has worked in a mixture of environments and teams, and takes pride in his ability to encourage change without forcing it. His passion for software development began during a deployment to Afghanistan, where he hacked applications together out of necessity. Later he received a General's Commendation for his work.

Martyn loves to learn from people, podcasts, books and anything else he can get his hands on.

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full programme