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Kanban Metrics: Cycle Time vs Lead Time
Kanban Metrics: Cycle Time vs Lead Time

Definition and brief explanation of two Kanban measurements

Alexander Sergeev avatar
Written by Alexander Sergeev
Updated over a week ago

If you continue to dive into the most important and valuable Kanban concepts and artifacts, then you should learn the definition and meanings of Lead and Cycle Time.

How does it work? 

Very often, we receive messages from our relatives, waiting for them a couple of days. Then we often busy to answer timely even if the answer will take 5 minutes.

Lead Time of replying to a couple of days; Cycle Time is only 5 minutes. Let's consider this in regard to Kanban context.

The terms Lead Time and Cycle Time are widely used in the Kanban world. Often people get confused trying to understand what is what and their importance.

Lead Time and Cycle Time describe how work is flowing into a system and through it.

What is Lead Time? 

Lead Time measurement is the time from the very moment when a customer create a request (and the request is placed on a Kanban board) to when all work on this task is completed. It can be a request for a new product or a specific feature. 

It means that the request was successfully delivered to the customer. This is the total time the customer is waiting for an item to be delivered.

What is Cycle Time? 

When there is a new assignment on the board, it usually needs to be reviewed and discussed before the execution. Typically, this new task spends some time in a queue.

Cycle Time is the amount of time, that the team spent actually working on this item. (not considering the time that this item spent waiting on the Kanban board). 

So, you should measure the Cycle Time when the task enters the working column (In Progress), but not earlier.

Ways to improve on the Lead and Cycle Time 

The solution you need to improve the Lead Time and Cycle Time is applying an appropriate online Kanban tool that will automatically make the statistics visual and accessible at any time.

Online project management software help to manage your tasks and assign them to all team members, take notes of when a task has entered the board and later compares it to the time that someone was actually working on it.

This is rather obvious that the improvement efforts should be focused on the Lead Time because you can manipulate the Cycle Time by changing the process alone. 

Customers perceive the Lead Time only, as they rarely have access to the inner processes.

Hygger suggests 

Dive deeper into more Kanban methodology terms:

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