5 Practical Tips for Interpreting Flow Metrics in the Cumulative Flow Diagram
You’re part of a dynamic software development team, always seeking ways to optimize your workflow and deliver exceptional results.
Recently, you stumbled upon a powerful tool called the Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD), renowned for its ability to provide invaluable insights into flow metrics.
However, you found yourself wondering how to truly interpret and harness the power of these metrics.
Today, I invite you to join me as we uncover actionable strategies for making the most of your CFD.
So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to unlock the full potential of your charts.
5 Key Strategies for Interpreting Flow Metrics in the Cumulative Flow Diagram
Now, let’s dive right into the key strategies that will empower you to interpret flow metrics in your Cumulative Flow Diagram and drive better outcomes for your teams.
#1 Monitor Band Gradients for Performance Shifts
Pay close attention to how the gradients of the bands in the CFD change over time.
When you see the gradient of the “Done” band increasing, it’s a positive sign that your team is delivering work faster and improving their performance.
On the other hand, if you notice a sharp increase in the gradient of an “In Progress” band, it’s a red flag indicating a potential bottleneck in your workflow.
By actively monitoring the CFD gradients, you can swiftly identify performance shifts.
#2 Analyze Cycle Time and Throughput
When it comes to interpreting flow metrics in the Cumulative Flow Diagram, cycle time and throughput play a crucial role.
To assess your cycle time, focus on the horizontal distance between the upper and lower bounds of a band in the CFD. This distance provides an approximate average cycle time for a specific status in your workflow.
By analyzing the approx. average cycle time in your statuses, you can quickly pinpoint areas where tasks might be taking longer than expected.
In addition to cycle times, it’s essential to calculate the average throughput using the gradient between two points on the “Done” band. This metric represents the average number of tasks completed within a given time frame.
By analyzing the average throughput, you gain insights into your team’s productivity and their ability to deliver work consistently. It serves as an indicator of your team’s performance and can help you identify areas for improvement.
#3 Track Work Items in Progress
The Cumulative Flow Diagrams enables you to examine the number of work items in progress within each step in your process.
By assessing the distribution of tasks across your statuses, you can identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or imbalances in your workflow.
If you notice an excessive number of work items accumulating in a particular band, it indicates a potential area of concern that requires attention.
Similarly, a significant drop in the number of work items in progress in a specific stage might suggest a blockage or constraint. Keep a close eye on the distribution of work items to gain insights into your team’s performance.
#4 Assess Capacity Allocation
In the Cumulative Flow Diagram, the top line represents the rate at which tasks are coming into your workflow, while the bottom line represents the rate at which tasks are being completed and leaving the system. The vertical distance between these lines reflects your work in progress at any given time.
When the WIP is decreasing, the distance between the lines starts to shrink. This indicates that work is being completed faster than new tasks are arriving. It’s a positive sign that your team has the capacity to handle more work.
On the other hand, if the WIP is increasing, the distance between the lines expands. This suggests that the arrival rate of tasks is higher than the departure rate, indicating excessive demand. It means that your team is struggling to keep up with the workload, leading to a slowdown in delivery speed.
To maintain a balance between demand and capacity, it’s important to strive for consistency in your WIP. When the WIP remains consistent, the arrival and departure rate lines grow in sync, indicating a stable workflow.
When the distance between the lines stays equal, it signifies that your workflow is fully utilized and operating at an optimal level. This is the state where you’re maximizing your team’s efforts.
#5 Identify Patterns
The CFD enables you to identify patterns and anomalies that can serve as opportunities for improvement.
Look out for common patterns such as flat lines, stair steps, disappearing bands or the S-curve. These patterns are red flags that should not be ignored.
When you spot an unusual pattern, investigate the underlying causes and take action. This could involve applying work in progress limits, implementing a Kanban pull system or introducing new process policies that will enable the smooth flow of work.
Once you do that, it’s time to dive into the analysis of your Cumulative Flow Diagram. I’m eager to hear about the valuable insights you’ve uncovered, so don’t hesitate to send me a note. I’m on LinkedIn, and I want to hear about it all – the trends, the patterns, and the remarkable discoveries you make.
That’s a wrap for today, my friend! Join me again next week, same time and place, for more valuable insights and managerial goodness. Until then, take care and farewell.
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.