How to Track Progress in Kanban

Tracking progress is the core of the continuous improvement process. Without regular monitoring and tracking one cannot either 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 the graphics you will ever need to track progress in Kanban, including their easy to follow implementation.

1) 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.

  • The 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 absolute value and on the horizontal – a timeline. The bottom line is that we are measuring whether tasks are increasing or nor over time.
  • Second, there are different flows. Each colored flow represents a column on the board. If we isolate only one flow we will get a look at how many tasks this particular column contains over time.
  • The 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 instant feedback about our workflow. When the rule of ceteris paribus is applied there are three possible scenarios here:

A) The Bands are Progressing in Parallel

This means your workflow is stable and you are processing exactly the same amount of tasks that you are getting. 

stable-cumulative-flow

B) A Band is Rapidly Narrowing

This means throughput is higher than the entry rate. In other words, you’ve got more capacity than you need.

unused-capacity-cumulative-flow

C) A Band is Rapidly Widening

This is a sign that more tasks are entering the system, than leaving it. It usually means that your team is multitasking a lot or doing other wasteful activities.

cumulative-flow-bottleneck

Track Your Progress with Kanbanize

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.

2) 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 color 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 an extremely useful chart to track progress in Kanban, and 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, meantime, and trend.

3) Distribution Chart

chart

The distribution chart is fairly easy to understand chart to track progress in Kanban. It is a pie chart which visualizes tasks per unit of measure of your choice like size, count, etc. The chart could be additionally configured by including and/or excluding columns, showing data only for specific swimlane, selecting dimension like assignee, tags, etc.

Task distribution chart is really good for getting an overall look on how many tasks are present in each part of the board. It is an easy way to find out where most of the tasks are accumulated and where to turn your eyes to. A more comprehensive article about this chart can be found in our blog.

4) Block Resolution Chart

kanban-block-resolution-time

The block resolution chart is exactly what its name implies: a chart that shows how much time it takes for a blocked task to be resolved. The data represented by each column is time against the task. The information about why the task has been blocked can be found when hovering over the column.

Like the rest, this chart is absolutely customizable and could be configured by swimlanes, columns, and units of measure like minutes, hours and days. To find more about this chart you can read the following article.

5) Created vs. Finished Tasks

chart

This is one of my favorite charts! Is it simple, even minimalistic and tells you almost everything that needs to be told – whether you are able to meet the demand or not. The chart compares the created tasks for a given period against the finished ones. You can define a custom time range and visualize it by days, weeks, months and even years.

It could also be additionally configured by filtering your data by assignee, priority and other attributes. In its core, the chart compares the throughput you and your team are receiving compared to the output that you are able to provide. This allows you to understand in a glance whether you need additional power for your engine or it is working on a lower capacity than it could. Again there is an article which goes into the details of this chart and explains its concept by examples. For more advanced information on how to track progress in Kanban, read this article.

6) Average Cycle Time per Column

Process control

Track Your Progress with Kanbanize

The average cycle time per column or also called “process control” is the chart you need for spotting bottlenecks in your workflow and finding places where the system can be improved.

As its name states this graph shows you how much time a task spends in a given column on average. The data is presented in easy to visualize line charts. Again like the rest, it is fully customizable as well. To find more about the process control chart please click on the following link.

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One thought on “How to Track Progress in Kanban with 6 Easy-to-read Charts

  1. Pingback: Kanban 101 - Tracking progress : Part 2 | Kanbanize Blog

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