Kanban Board Tip No. 4: Measuring Your Workflow Performance

When it comes to keeping projects on track and on budget, it’s integral to continuously improve the workflow used to complete tasks.

One way to achieve improvement is to measure your workflow’s performance through the use of a kanban board. Examining the performance of your workflow can help identify problems and bottlenecks before they occur.

This is another issue a kanban board system can help address. As we mentioned in our previous posts, a kanban board is a simple way to visualize your workflows and quell the chaos that often clouds projects. “Kanban” is the Japanese word for “visual card,” which is an apt description for the system. It’s a solution that allows team members to visualize workflows for projects and all in one convenient place while also keeping tasks transparent for the entire team.

Tracking performance is particularly easy when using digital kanban boards, because kanban software often hosts a number of in-suite analytics tools. Here are three important metrics to keep an eye on when measuring workflow performance.

Lead Time

This metric examines the time period between a request and the completion or delivery of a task. This is inclusive of all the stages in your kanban workflow — so the lead time begins when a client makes an order and it’s put on your kanban board.

For example, if a task was backlogged or sat in a queue for five business days and then was completed in just three business days, the lead time total would be eight days.

Analyzing this metric can help managers see which tasks are taking longer than expected (or less time than expected) and adjust the planning process accordingly.

Cycle Time

The clock starts on this metric begins as soon as a task or order is assigned and a team member begins work on the project.

The cycle time of a task measures how long a task takes to be completed from the moment it lands on the desk of a team member. This is the time when your task is “in process” in your kanban swimlane while someone is working on an assignment.

Using the aforementioned example, if the entire lead time is eight days, the cycle time would be just three days as that’s the work time necessary to actually complete the task.

Cumulative Flow

When looking at cumulative flow, managers can really get a clear picture of any impediments or gaps in a workflow. Cumulative flow is most often represented on a line graph, and any plateaus or drops in the line can indicate bottlenecks or potential issues.

After examining this line graph, managers can get a sense of how many tasks are currently on the go and set appropriate work-in-progress limits to prevent team members from starting too many items before finishing them.