Kanban is a popular approach to managing work and has been adopted by many teams. In Kanban, you visualize your work as a system of cards on a whiteboard or wall where they move from left to right as they progress through the workflow, being completed along the way. This simple visualization helps expose bottlenecks in processes and highlight areas for improvement that will reduce cycle time and improve throughput over time.
One of the most common metrics used is Kanban Cycle Time – how long does a card spend between each step in its workflow?
In this article we’ll take a closer look at some of the most commonly used metrics with Kanban, their advantages and benefits as well as challenges when it comes to their implementation.
Cycle Time Tracking In general, Cycle Time is a measure of how long it takes for work to flow through the workflow. For example, how long does each card spend in each stage of its workflow? You typically want to track this over time (weekly or monthly) and also compare it with previous data to see if there are any significant improvements.
When you visualize your work like this it becomes very easy to spot bottlenecks. This can highlight where attention is needed on increasing throughput or reducing cycle time by improving quality, increasing parallelization or streamlining processes. A good example here would be looking at various stages of the workflow and seeing which ones are taking longer than others – these might indicate areas that need improvement or further investigation as some cards may pass through them more quickly.
For example, if you have a team of QA testers working in the workflow then it becomes very easy to see who’s responsible for each step and whether there are any bottlenecks at certain points throughout the process. It can also highlight areas where work is not being processed quickly enough or where your processes are too rigid and preventing you from making quick decisions when required. If you’re using Scrum as part of your development methodology, this type of visualization could help identify individual tasks that are taking longer than expected. Like with most Kanban metrics, one of the benefits here is that it gives visibility into how work flows through different stages thus enabling teams to spot possible issues before they become visible elsewhere which would require more time-consuming investigations to track down. Check out kanban board swimlane
Another example is if you had separate steps for design, development and testing – the cycle time would show how long it took for each stage to process work through its entire workflow. This can indicate any areas that are bottlenecked, such as developers waiting on designers or testers waiting on code before they can begin their tasks. You can also check whether there’s any major differences between expected vs actual times here (e.g., if an individual task was estimated at 2 days but actually takes
These benefits highlight some of the key reasons why Cycle Time tracking is one of the most commonly used metrics in Kanban. Benefits Provides visibility into how many cards pass through each stage of your workflow. Enables teams to spot bottlenecks and inefficiencies within a process. Highlights areas where work is being held up unnecessarily due to bottlenecked tasks. Shows the time it takes for each stage of your workflow to complete, which can help determine whether further investigation or attention is required at certain points throughout the process.
Kanban Metrics Advantages are:
1. It is easy to measure.
2. It is straightforward to understand for all team members.
3. The measurements are objective data that can be validated by others, not just the individual making the observation.
4. Analogous metrics may exist in other parts of your organization’s system, which can help you better understand the context of these measurements and their impact on other operational areas within your business or company.
1. You need to establish clear requirements upfront so everyone understands how to calculate cycle time correctly (e.g., work types should be standardized).
2. The calculation takes into account any waiting times rather than actual time worked – this could create inaccurate results if different teams start using different languages or having different interpretations as there’s no standardization.
3. The time measurements can be inconsistent as it takes into account waiting time as well as actual work done by the team.
This could lead to inaccurate data if different teams start using different languages or having different interpretations – there’s no standardization. This type of metric can also require significant training and practice before individuals begin making observations consistently within their team and across departments and businesses, especially for employees less familiar with Lean and Agile practices that Kanban is based on. You’ll find a more detailed summary of these pros/cons further down under ‘Recommended Approach’ so don’t forget to check out what others have said about it before you make your final decision!
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