Leverage Your Improvement Efforts: Cycle Time Breakdown
One of the most efficient ways to achieve a robust and highly productive business operation is to pay close attention to the bottlenecks in your system and manage them effectively.
In his book ‘Theory of Constraints’, Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt defines a bottleneck as “anything that limits a system from achieving higher performance versus its goal”.
The key to manage these highly undesired success inhibitors is to fully recognize but not fight the symptoms. Instead, managers need to adhere to a comprehensive bottleneck analysis that focuses on boosting performance, leveraging improvement efforts and avoiding crippling delays.
Where Is Your Time Getting Wasted?
Analyzing our cycle times is the best way to identify bottlenecks which hinder our performance and negatively impact delivery times.
As work flows through the process, cards move across the Kanban board. Each task spends its time in the different process states and adds up to the time needed to finish what we’ve started. By tracking our cycle times, we evaluate the efficiency of our workflow and identify process bottlenecks.
Evaluating Your Improvement Efforts
To optimize your workflow performance, you need to break your delivery times down to smaller pieces and evaluate the improvement opportunities. This is best achieved in the Cycle Time Breakdown Chart. The diagram displays the cycle times of your completed tasks split by process state. The horizontal axis is a timeline, while the vertical axis tells you how long in total tasks have taken to complete. By glancing over each bar, you can assess how the time spent in each process state affects the overall time needed to finish your work.
The most important information to get from the Cycle Time Breakdown Chart is how the data changes in time. It is an indicator of continuous improvement. If the longest sections are going down, this is a sign that your improvement efforts are paying off. But, if the cycle times are going up, it is better to take a step back and analyze the reasons behind that behavior.
Analyzing Your Workflow Performance
The Cycle Time Breakdown can be of great help when it comes to bottleneck analysis. This is best achieved by looking into your process state cycle times vs the overall cycle time needed to finish your work. Spotting the states with the longest sections on the diagram, analyzing their cycle times and identifying the root causes of delays is a tremendous step towards improving flow efficiency and reducing delivery times.
A quick glance at the Cycle Time Breakdown reveals the states in our workflow that slow us down the most. This insight provides a good basis for further investigation and selection of remedies for improving workflow performance. The steps that have taken the most of the time, impeding the entire flow, become glaringly obvious. That instantly fires off the alarm and helps us start asking the right questions, sooner.
Product managers from various industries leverage the power of making data-driven decisions using Kanban analytics. It is fast, simple and extremely effective. Try it out for free on your favorite platform.
Highlight the Disruptive Nature of Your Waiting Times
The approach of analyzing our data using the Cycle Time Breakdown is extremely powerful if we maintain a Kanban pull system. Kanban pull systems enable users to assess how much time the workflow sits in each queue state.
In the example below, we have a process with the following steps – Development, Code Review, Testing, Deployment and Done, and the queue states Code review (Done) and Testing (Done). On the Cycle Time Breakdown, it is clearly visible that 20% of the workflow is spent in the Code Review (Done) step. As this is a queue state, it means that our work is not able to move to Testing, it is just sitting and waiting in the queue due to a bottleneck in the Testing state.
An obvious solution may be to hire more testing specialists. We could assume that adding more testing capacity would remove the bottleneck. This approach is also known as “elevating the constraint”. However, it costs both time and money. So, rather than jumping immediately to elevation, it might be better to try to fully exploit the capacity of the people responsible for that step and relieve them from activities that could be handled by someone else or completely nixed. For instance, testers are quite commonly also responsible for creating user manuals. This can be very easily handed over to other departments.
Another alternative is to assign some of the idle team members to that step. You can categorize your work using risk profiles to specify the requirements that must be tested by the professional test team and delegate those that could be covered by people from other functional areas.
The team performance will increase by 20% only by resolving the bottleneck in their Testing step. Their customers will receive what they have requested 20% faster, which will lead to a significant rise in customer satisfaction and so a firm loyalty to your brand.
WE UNCOVER THE EFFICIENCY OF YOUR WORKFLOW
Optimize your performance with Kanban analyticsSee a dashboard with your data
The Best Course of Action
Here are some tips to help you improve your workflow performance once you have identified the bottlenecks in your system.
- Revise your process policies – Reconsider the policies on the step with the longest cycle time and try to identify what needs to change to help reduce the time spent there.
- Reduce WIP limits on the states with the longest time – Pay special attention to your queue states and make sure that the number of tasks in your queue states counts towards the WIP limit of its active state. As you decrease the time spent on those columns, you’ll reduce the total cycle time.
- Allocate idle team members to work together on the problem area – Delegating responsibility to people with different expertise encourages knowledge sharing and drastically improves collaboration. And that ultimately boosts your employees’ engagement and motivation.
- Evaluate your cycle time breakdown over time – By observing the split of the cycle times throughout your process you’ll be able to assess your improvement efforts and keep track of how trends build over time.
Short delivery times are essential for developing a strong competitive advantage. Breaking your cycle times down to small segments and improving them independently, essentially leads to decreasing your overall cycle time.
By keeping your focus on resolving bottlenecks in your system, you’ll ultimately reduce your cycle times, become more efficient and deliver customer value, faster. And that is crucial for sustainable business agility.
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams become more efficient 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.
"Nave’s powerful data-visualization toolkit helps you optimize your flow and take your team to a whole new level. T… https://t.co/znpofG06htFollow
Take your training and consultancy sessions to a whole new level. With Kanban analytics on their existing tools, yo… https://t.co/8iNe3zZS87Follow
Models of self-government, as well as models of harmonized autonomy, have emerged to address the need for strategic… https://t.co/Fkn2w1FybrFollow
Learn how applying Kaizen principles brings continuous improvement to your business practices, increases your perfo… https://t.co/EKejZQdt98Follow
Are you ready to recap the benefits Kanban analytics can bring to your teams? Choose your platform today!… https://t.co/IBRMXPLPXOFollow
In Kanban, Little’s Law links the three basic flow metrics – throughput, cycle time and work in progress. Understan… https://t.co/lz0dCe8fJLFollow
Choose your platform today and deliver outstanding customer value sooner with our range of analytical charts.… https://t.co/maqOaaqgFbFollow
Learn more about how a Financial Technology Company in Brazil evolve from 20 teams running around 50 initiatives to… https://t.co/3pk151Pm1MFollow
The Aging Chart for Trello helps you identify where your process is slowing down while tasks are still in progress.… https://t.co/D51LQOxxhIFollow
After many years of experience with classic waterfall projects at Sitegeist, in 2013 Gina and Sven started to compl… https://t.co/f33g593GhPFollow
Large teams and complex projects face a common issue – the Kanban board becomes cluttered and hard to read. Learn h… https://t.co/uxW9I3XhhpFollow
All of our plans come with full visibility into your past performance so that you can make decisions based on your… https://t.co/CECD3QA2MnFollow
Product teams who use Nave to analyze their workflows can make empirical predictions based on their performance dat… https://t.co/w2UOo7Q3q5Follow
When implementing Kanban, it can be difficult to know how much work has been done, and how well your team is perfor… https://t.co/sT6p8qDJfxFollow
With Nave, you can use your favorite tool to boost your productivity and improve workflow efficiency.… https://t.co/KhWe93qHO0Follow
This is the story of how 30 teams in Petrobras have evolved their maturity and how patterns of evolution can be rec… https://t.co/AHImgtqYBrFollow
Nave's Kanban analytics suite helps you collaborate better and ship faster across all of your Azure boards. Unleash… https://t.co/NttVDesyGoFollow
Choose your platform today and deliver outstanding customer value sooner with our range of analytical charts that v… https://t.co/ZEJTgy7JweFollow