Kanban Measures

Wojciech Walczak
January 4, 2024
Kanban Measures

There is a set of common measures used in pretty much any Kanban system that exists. This article explains those measures, relying on the definitions and terminology coined by Kanban University.

Lead Time

Lead time is the time from the start of a process to its conclusion; however, there is not just one Lead Time measure:

  • System lead time represents an item's elapsed time to pass from the commitment point to the delivery point in the workflow.
  • Customer lead time shows the total time from a request for certain work to be done until that request is satisfied. The customer lead time tends to have higher values as it includes a larger part of the workflow – the customer lead time also includes the time in the initial queue, i.e. from the moment the request was created until the deferred commitment has been made.

Both system lead time and customer lead time may be used to represent the processing time of an individual work item but also as an average across a number of already completed work items (especially from a particular period).

Work in progress (WIP)

Work in progress (WIP) level measures the total number of work items that are in progress at a particular moment.

The Throughput 

The throughput or delivery rate tracks the number of delivered work items over a certain period. When the length of the period is used consistently, it allows trends to be tracked over time. 

Work-item age 

Work-item age is the time that has passed since a particular work item crossed the commitment point. The age can be tracked for any item in progress.

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