Blocker waiting room

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…one or more stable teams working on the value stream using a kanban board.

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Continue working while waiting on external events and keeping a clear visual oversight on all work in progress minimizes waste and stale items, keeps things flowing, and triggers a conversation on resolving the clutter and slow down.

Sometimes you become dependent on answers from external sources like other teams, customers or third parties.


Make blocked items stand out—e.g. by adding a small bright colored sticker—and move them to a special subcell in the current column called the blocker waiting room. Work hard to release a blocked item and remove the blocker signal. Pull any released items from the blocker waiting room and continue working on them before pulling items from other sources.

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To create a Waiting Room:

  1. Separate the cell in an upper and lower half. The upper half is the Waiting Room. The lower half is the Operating Room.
  2. Set and keep a work in progress limit on the Waiting Room.
  3. Decide what to do:
    1. whenever the limit is exceeded;
    2. with items that sit in the Waiting Room for more than five days (consider removing them altogether).
  4. Work hard to:
    1. avoid using the Waiting Room at all;
    2. release any items in the Waiting Room back into normal flow.
  5. Mark an item that is blocked for longer than four hours and move it to the Waiting Room.
  6. Remove the mark as soon as it gets unblocked, yet leave it in the Waiting Room.
  7. When permitted, pull unblocked items out of the Waiting Room into the Operating Room before pulling items from other sources, so that older work gets finished first—start what you finish and finish what you start.

Keep track of it all in a cumulative flow diagram. Really got stuck? Consider:

  • make your limits loose—increases lead time and reduces the urge to start a conversation about it and experiment with improvements; loses the catalytic effect of kanban;
  • allow to break them often—will increase lead time and make them meaningless; or
  • change the flow—structural improvement; preferred.

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