Process management is a midway to success. The second midway is process monitoring and drawing conclusions. In Kanban, there are indicators, which enable process monitoring. They allow the team to improve the process. My favourite indicators are as follows:
- Delivery time – time for the entire flow
- Throughput – how many tasks are included in a given flow.
As with most kanban aspects, indicators should be visualised so that we all know what is happening.
Throughput is an indicator demonstrating the number of tasks, which may be completed by a team in a time unit. The measurement consists in the calculation of tasks completed in a given time unit, e.g.: in a week or in a month. On the board, it is necessary to count the tasks in the column Done, and then zero this column. The number of tasks fulfilled in given time defines the team throughput. The throughput analysis focuses on the completeness of tasks.
Delivery time is an indicator facilitating the measurement of the process rate. This indicator is based on the measurement of entry and exit dates from a given stage or set of stages.
This measurement demonstrates how much time you need for a given stage. This indicator facilitates the estimations referring to other projects.
Number of defects and problems
The number of defects is an indicator describing quality. Tracking defects and problems may be a controlled indicator making you sure that your process is not too fast. It is worth counting separate blockades – tasks which cannot be fulfilled due to objective reasons and defects – tasks which need correction.
The previously gathered indicators may be used in preparing graphic diagrams. In kanban, task flow and reporting should be visualised. A basic report is a linear diagram where the Y axis is a rate value and the X axis represents time.
Cumulative flow diagram
My favourite diagram is a cumulative flow diagram (CFD), which contains much information that may be useful as a basis for discussions or process improvements. In order to draw a CFD, you must know the number of tasks, which are included in every process stage on every day. You can obtain this number easily by counting the sheets on the board. There is an example below.
Drawing a cumulative flow diagram is simple. If you are using Excel, the diagram you are looking for is named cumulative, layered or similar. You just have to tick data and the software will draw the diagram for you (sometimes you have to change the order of verses). In my case, the diagram looks like this:
This diagram shows how the work went during one week. This diagram shows the delivery time, cycle time, total WIG level, etc.
In order to make this diagram useful, I have to explain some elements. I numbered them as follows:
- The delivery time may be observed as the total horizontal length of the colourful diagram field for any day. The increase in the belt thickness indicates the growing trend of the implementation and cycle time. The decrease in the belt thickness – by reducing WIP (Work in Progress) or reducing waiting time/ time blocked will directly affect the ratio of time and value. The increase in the thickness of individual belts indicates a bottleneck, formed as a result of the next process step.
- The time of the process part cycles may be read out as the field width, which interests us. The diagram measures the programming time.
- The register size is demonstrated as the height of a top layer. The same measurement may be performed for a given layer on any day, receiving WIP for this column.
- You can also measure the total level of WIP and delivery time, the height of all the fields up to the column Done.
Kanban ensures simple but powerful indicators, which may be directly connected with business benefits. Kanban indicators focus on the measurement of “time to value”; therefore, using these means in constant improvement processes generates direct business profits. The belts of various colours indicate work in progress on each step of a value stream.
This is the final entry, which closes the Kanban cycle. Good luck with Kanban!