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Cycle Time Scatterplot

The cycle time scatterplot is a great analytics tool for measuring the cycle time of tasks on Kanban boards and forecasting your team's performance.

Tracking key performance indicators is an unavoidable activity of a project manager. Depending on the industry and method of executing assignments, KPI’s may vary. However, many of the tools for measuring them are similar, although they are adapted to the specific case.

Such a tool is the scatterplot chart. It has found its way into the lives of countless managers and has been adapted for various purposes, including measuring and forecasting the cycle time of assignments.

What Is a Cycle Time Scatterplot?

The cycle time scatterplot is an adapted version of the well-known chart. It is revered in the Lean management world because it provides a very detailed picture of one of the key metrics in Lean – cycle time.

Cycle time represents how long it takes to get things done for individual items on your Kanban boards. The goal of a cycle time scatterplot is to visualize the cycle time of your team’s assignments within a predefined time frame.

Cycle time scatter plot

The structure of this chart is very similar to that of a typical scatterplot. The horizontal axis of the chart visualizes a selected time frame by dates. The vertical one represents the cycle time of the completed tasks during this period calculated in days.

Each dot that you see scattered across the chart is a marker representing a task within a card on your Kanban board. The dots' positions are determined by the date of completion and how long it is required for the Kanban card to reach the done column.

A leader practicing Lean management may use the cycle time scatterplot to:

  • Visualize Clearly the Cycle Times of Multiple Assignments of a Kind
  • Compare How Much Time Different Work Types Take by Coloring the Dots of Each One in a Distinguishable Color
  • Forecast the Cycle Time on Future Assignments

How To Use a Scatterplot Chart to Forecast Cycle Time

One of the greatest benefits of using a cycle time scatterplot for Lean management is that it gives you the ability to forecast the outcome of future tasks. Although it may look confusing at first sight, the chart can give you probabilistic forecasts about future performance.

Cycle time scatter plot - anticipating future outcome

For this to happen, you need to draw horizontal lines across the chart, depending on the number of finished tasks within a specific time frame.

For example, let’s say that you’ve got 100 tasks that were completed in 30 days. If 25 of them were finished in 5 days or less, while all the others took longer, you’ve got a 25 percent chance to finish any future task within this time frame. Draw a horizontal line at the height of the 10th day on your cycle time scatterplot.

Let’s say that 50 more tasks were completed within 10 days. The second horizontal line should mark 75 percent and should be at the height of the 10th day. The higher the percentile, the higher the chance to complete a future task within this time frame.

Whenever you commit to a deadline, you need to look at the percentile lines on your scatterplot and say that you’ve got a certain percent chance to be ready in X days/weeks/months.

Undoubtedly useful, a handmade cycle time scatterplot would require a lot of time to maintain. Thankfully, digital Kanban board platforms have implemented the chart in their software. With their help, you can set the desired time frame and get accurate data and percentiles in a few seconds.

You’ve also got several filters at your disposal that can help you distinguish easily between various card criteria like task type, priority, assignee, etc. This way, you can visualize with great precision the exact data that you are looking for.

The cycle time scatterplot can prove to be an amazing addition to your arsenal of analytics for Lean project management. With its help, you can get a transparent picture of the cycle time of cards that pass through your team’s Kanban board. You’ll also be able to forecast how long it would take for future assignments to be completed.

In Summary

The cycle time scatter plot is one of the most advanced analytics for Lean project management. The chart:

  • Presents clear visualization of the cycle times of multiple similar assignments
  • Compares the performance of different work item types by coloring the dots of each one in a distinguishable color
  • Provides an easy way to forecast the cycle time of future work items

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