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Understanding Cycle Time: The Key to More Efficient Kanban Workflows

Updated: Feb 7, 2023


Understanding Cycle Time: The Key to More Efficient Kanban Workflows

Cycle time is an important metric in kanban workflows, but it's often not fully understood. While it's commonly used to track the time it takes for a task to move from one column to the next on a kanban board, it's actually much more than that. In this article, we'll uncover the secret behind cycle time and show you how to use it to boost efficiency in your team's workflow.

What is Cycle Time, Anyway?

Cycle time is simply the length of time it takes for a task to move from one column to the next on your kanban board. By tracking this metric, you can see how long it takes for a task to move through your process and identify areas for improvement. This makes it a valuable tool for understanding the efficiency of your workflow.

The Secret Behind Cycle Time

Here's the secret: cycle time is directly affected by the amount of work in progress (WIP). WIP measures the number of tasks currently being worked on at any given time. The more work that's in progress, the longer it takes for tasks to move from one step to the next, and the longer cycle time will be.

How to Use Cycle Time for Better Efficiency

To maximize efficiency in your team's workflow, it's important to keep WIP levels low. This will shorten cycle time and improve the overall efficiency of your process. Here are a few tips for doing just that:

  • Limit the number of tasks in each column

  • Prioritize tasks and work on them in a logical order

  • Invest in tools and resources to support your team's workflow

Visualizing Cycle Time and WIP for Better Insights

One of the best things about cycle time is that it's easy to visualize. By using a control chart, you can track cycle time and WIP over time and see trends and patterns emerge. A control chart plots your metrics on a graph, with time on the x-axis and the metric value on the y-axis. By analyzing your control chart, you can quickly spot areas where cycle time is high, indicating bottlenecks or inefficiencies in your workflow. This information can then be used to drive improvement efforts and help you make your team's workflow even more efficient.

In short, cycle time is a powerful tool for boosting efficiency in your team's workflow. By keeping WIP levels low and visualizing cycle time and WIP with a control chart, you'll have the insights you need to drive continuous improvement.


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