I have worked with WIP limits before without really understanding why we have them. They appear to be just some arbitrary number on a board that people roughly try to stick to with no understanding of why. Why is normally the most important question! Normally it is very hard to do the doing without the understanding of why backing it up.
I am personally trying to ask why a lot more, and so I decided to pick up a book which was recommended to me, “Why Limit WIP: We are drowning in work” by Jim Benson. It is truly an excellent read, and worth taking the time to go through. It will pay itself back many times over in the future.
I am not going to parrot the book here as I could never do it justice, and you will get much more value out of reading it yourself. However the basis of the book is “do less to do more”. By focusing on one or two things at a time, you are much more likely to complete them. Unfinished work doesn’t add value to anything. WIP limits help us focus out attention on a few key tasks, which in turn helps limit context switching and the mental overhead that comes with jumping between many different tasks.
I encourage everyone to give it a read.