Kanban 101 – Tracking Progress : Part 1

Tracking progress is the core of the continuous improvement process. Without regular monitoring and tracking one cannot neither recognize whether any changes should be applied, nor realize if everything is going on well. An old management cliché states that you “can’t manage what you don’t measure” and this is exactly the case here.

Monitoring and tracking your progress with Kanban can be both fairly easy and really complex task as it all depends on your end goal. One of the things that Kanbanize is recognized for is the comprehensive Analytics module which can greatly help you handle this task more easily. The module contains all the graphics you need in order to get a good view and analyze your performance and spot potential bottlenecks. In this article you can find a quick overview of these graphics along with how they could be implemented. At the end of each paragraph you can find a link with more information about the given chart.

Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD)

chart (1)

Every complex thing consists of multiple simple parts they say. I’ll try to apply this method here by decomposing the diagram into several parts.

First thing to understand here is what we are measuring, hence try to examine what the values plotted on the axes are. In our case with the CFD this is time against the number of tasks. So on the vertical line can be found the number of tasks in an absolute value and on the horizontal – a time line. The bottom line is that we are measuring whether tasks are increasing or nor over time.

Second – there are the different flows. Each coloured flow represents a column on the board. If we isolate only one flow we will get a look on how many tasks this particular column contains over time.

Third part is the accumulated data of all flows. For me this is where things get messy, but if we look at this graph with our end goal in mind it couldn’t be clearer. This accumulated look over the data is giving us overall information on how we are performing.

As I mentioned above the CFD in a nutshell is giving us overall information on how we and our team is performing. When we isolate the requested and in progress states we can get an instant feedback about our workflow. When the rule of ceteris paribus is applied there are three possible scenarios here:

–          A: The cumulative flow is increasing, which means that you are getting more tasks that you and your team can process, hence you need more people or better performance.

–         B: The cumulative flow is flat, which means that you are processing exactly the same amount of tasks that you are getting.

–          C: The cumulative flow is decreasing. This means that you are either getting less work than you can process or the team’s productivity has improved.

These are just a few example scenarios and of course the situation could be way more complex with many factors involved. Still these are the three possible ways which you diagram can be leaning towards. For more comprehensive elucidation please read the blog post dedicated to the cumulative flow diagram.

Cycle time

cycle-time-no-done-column

Before we dive deeper into this graphic, lets first define what “cycle time” and “lead time” is.

Cycle time is the time you need to complete something you have started working on and Lead time is the time between something has been requested until it is delivered. In the context of Kanban, cycle time contains only the “in progress” state and lead time contains all three states (requested, in progress and done).

Sometimes the lead time could contain multiple cycle times within. Although the chart is called “cycle time” it could also represent the whole lead time when the backlog, requested, done and archive are included. The chart is absolutely customizable just like the cumulative flow diagram, so it’s up to you how you will configure it.

After we have defined the two terms let’s examine the chart that Kanbanize has to offer, and how to read it.

Similar to CFD, we’ll start by examining what the values on the axes are. In this case the axes represent time against card ID. Inside the axes are plotted different stacked bars. Each colour represents different column and the length of each stack piece represents how much time the item has spent in this particular column.

Cycle time chart is extremely useful to find out how much time given tasks have spent in particular states. Because of the graph simplicity, it is easy to visually comprehend the displayed data and find the extreme values or else said the tasks that are taking too long to complete. In addition, the graphic also displays the standard deviation, mean time and trend. To learn more about the cycle time chart please the article dedicated to it, on the following link.

To be continued…

 

Go to Part 2

This entry was posted in Kanban, Kanban Resources, Lean on by .

About Bisser Ivanov

Keen on innovation, exploration or simply trying new things. Would that be a technology, new methodology or just cool gadgets. Got almost 2 decades of experience working as Software Engineer, Team Lead, QA/Processes Manager and Managing Director in mid-size and large scale Software Companies: Prosyst, SAP, Software AG.

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