Do You Measure Kanban Throughput?

What is Kanban throughput? What's the best way to measure it? This article reflects on these questions and provides a perspective to track a Kanban team's performance in an effective way.

 

What Is Kanban Throughput? 

Kanban Throughput is defined as the average number of items or cards passing through the flow within a specific time duration provided that the work load stays uniform during that period. It is generally used to track team's performance. Throughput variability reflects the difference in size, complexity, and team skills.

 

According to the Little's Law:

Throughput = Total WIP / Average Lead Time

 

Measuring What Matters: Kanban Throughput

The best way to measure throughput in Kanban is with the CFD (Commulative Flow Diagram). The Cumulative Flow Diagram is the visual representation of the cards as they move from one column or state to another on a Kanban board. The CFD plots the number of cards at each stage at a given time.

 

Below is a sample CFD for your reference:

 

Sample CFD Diagram

 

The different colors on this diagram represent the various states in the flow. The height of each color band indicates the number of cards in that state at that point in time. 

 

The CFD provides you with an insight on how many cards moved from one state to another in a specific time duration. Generally, the CFD is plotted for each day, however, if there are too many moving cards in a day, it can be plotted on an hourly basis as well. Below is a sample CFD when plotted for every hour in a working day.

 

Sample CFD - Plotted Hourly

 

Moreover, the CFD provides valuable data on lead time and cycle time trends. Both lead time and cycle time denote the time a work item spends in the workflow until they are complete. Lead time is the time that a card takes from start to finish. Cycle time is the time an engineer spends to actively work on it. In a CFD, both lead time and cycle time metrics are measured along the horizontal axis.

 

The Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) also displays total cards across different columns i.e. total WIP. This data is measured along the vertical axis of the CFD diagram.

 

Below is a sample CFD that depicts lead time, average cycle time, and the total WIP.

 

Sample CFD Diagram With Lead Time, Cycle Time, and Total WIP

 

If you are interested about other Kanban charts such as Average Lead Time, Average Cycle Time, Flow Efficiency Chart, or the Blocker Clustering Chart, read my book, The Basics Of Kanban - A Popular Lean Framework.

 

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4 Things that Impact Productivity at Work

What are the main reasons that impact your productivity at work? Let's take a look at a typical work day. How many times do you get interrupted by your colleagues who want to pick your brain on something. Or how many times does your leader interrupt you for status updates? How many times do you check your phone or your smart watch? How often do you receive a text, a video, or a mime? This article will list the 4 habits that impact your productivity at work.

 

Accepting Interruptions

If your colleagues ask for your help, do you feel obliged to help them? Or do you schedule time in your calendar to respond to their queries? Does your boss interrupt you while you are in the middle of something important? Do you leave everything to listen to his concerns?

Interruptions are external stimuli that we don't plan for. Things such as unplanned discussions and ad-hoc work requests are the primary interruptions that shift our focus during the day. As a result, it takes longer to get things done. We need to try our best to limit these interruptions as much as possible, even if it means, saying 'No' to your peers. 

 

Encouraging Distractions

How many hours or minutes do you spend on your phone every day on personal things at work ? 

Distractions are actions that we knowingly take to delay or avoid work. Things such as texting on your phone, long phone calls, reading or replying to social media posts, tracking stock prices, checking your fitbit or smartwatch, browsing for deals or coupons etc. are some of the main distractions that we have at work. These distractions reduce our focus on the task at hand and must be minimized. 

 

Multi-tasking

A common myth is that people who can multi-task are high-performers. However, it is just the opposite. The fact is that we are not good at executing multiple complex tasks at the same time. When we say we are multi-tasking, we are actually switch-tasking which means that we switch between one task to another. Switch-tasking slows you down as you spend more time and effort to re-focus on the first task once you have switched to the second one.

Instead, focus on completing the task that you are currently working on, before starting a new one.

 

Procrastination

Spending your time on an unimportant task to delay the start of the most important task is procrastination. The main causes of procrastination are lack of focus, fear of failure, or excessive perfectionism. The best way to overcome procrastination is to break down your goal into smaller tasks, know the bigger purpose or the outcome, overcome your fears, and get started. Stop procrastinating today to achieve higher productivity at work. 

 

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