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Understanding Kanban Metrics: The Key to Improved Workflow

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

Kanban is a popular method of visualizing and optimizing workflow, allowing teams to visualize the progress of their work, identify bottlenecks, and make data-driven improvements. However, to truly unlock the full potential of kanban, it's essential to understand the metrics that drive the process. In this article, we'll explore the key kanban metrics and how they can be used to improve your team's workflow.

Lead Time

Lead time is the length of time it takes for a task to move from "backlog" to "completed." This metric gives insight into the overall efficiency of your process, as it reflects the time taken to complete tasks from start to finish. To calculate lead time, simply subtract the date a task entered the backlog from the date it was completed.

Cycle Time

Cycle time is the length of time it takes for a task to move from one column on the kanban board to the next. Unlike lead time, which measures the total time taken to complete a task, cycle time measures the time taken to move from one step in the process to the next. This metric is useful for identifying bottlenecks in your workflow and helps to focus improvement efforts where they're needed most.

Work in Progress (WIP)

Work in progress (WIP) measures the number of tasks currently in progress at any given time. WIP is important because it highlights how many tasks are actively being worked on and whether your team has the capacity to take on more work. It's also useful for tracking progress towards your team's goals and ensuring that tasks are not being forgotten or left incomplete.


Throughput measures the number of tasks that are completed in a given period of time. This metric is important because it provides a snapshot of the team's overall productivity and helps to identify any dips or increases in productivity. To calculate throughput, simply divide the number of tasks completed by the number of working days in the period.

Visualizing Kanban Metrics with a Control Chart

One of the key benefits of using kanban metrics is the ability to visualize your process and identify areas for improvement. A control chart is a powerful tool for doing just that, allowing you to track your metrics over time and see trends and patterns emerge. To create a control chart, simply plot 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 identify areas where your process is running smoothly, as well as areas where bottlenecks or inefficiencies are causing delays. This information can then be used to drive improvement efforts, such as streamlining processes, reducing WIP, or investing in tools and resources to increase throughput.

In conclusion, understanding and using kanban metrics is essential for optimizing workflow and improving the overall performance of your team. By tracking lead time, cycle time, WIP, and throughput, you'll gain valuable insights into the efficiency of your process and be able to make data-driven improvements to boost productivity.


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