Flow Efficiency: Powering the Current of Your Work
How can we be more efficient? What’s holding us back from delivering great customer value, sooner?
These are pivotal questions shared by all success-driven product managers.
Productivity rises with the improvement of team engagement and working practices.
The greatest leverage in increasing productivity though is focusing on avoiding delays. Eliminating the causes that block our work and accumulate waiting time is the best way of getting more done, with less effort.
As Daniel Vacanti says in Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: ”Any reduction of inactive time will by definition improve overall Cycle Time. Looking at wait time is usually the best, easiest, cheapest area to investigate first for process improvement.”
When trying to trim down on your waiting times, one of the key metrics in Kanban can be of great help – flow efficiency.
The higher your flow efficiency is, the faster and smoother tasks flow through your process.
What is Flow Efficiency?
Essentially, flow efficiency is the ratio between your active time and total time.
It tells us how much work in progress is actually in progress.
To calculate your flow efficiency percentage, simply divide the time you actively spend working with your total cycle time and multiply the result with a hundred.
Let’s suppose your team needed 10 days to deliver a feature, but has only spent two days working on it. The flow efficiency of that feature would be 20%.
2/10 x 100% = 20%
Not an ideal percentage, but far from bad. Keep in mind it’s not uncommon for teams that are new to workflow management to start with an efficiency in the 15% range. (1)
But in a highly-saturated market where quick turnaround is imperative, mature teams are able to reach 40% efficiency of their flow.
This is considered an optimal target due to the unpredictable nature of knowledge work. (2)
Teams with a flow efficiency in this range have the competitive edge to deliver quickly and consistently.
WE UNCOVER THE EFFICIENCY OF YOUR WORKFLOW
Optimise your performance with Kanban analyticsExplore Your Data Now
Analyzing the Efficiency of Your Flow
Avoiding the causes behind delayed tasks is the key to a higher flow efficiency.
But before you start searching for those bottlenecks, you need to be able to measure your flow efficiency at first place.
Let’s explore how you can design your Kanban board to do this.
Seeing the Clear Picture of Your Process
Whichever project management tool you’re using, make sure you divide the states in your workflow where tasks are being worked on and held up waiting.
This will give you a more realistic overview of your process as you’ll be able to:
- Uncover bottlenecks more easily. By defining queue (waiting) states, you’ll see where tasks spend time waiting.
- Put a finger on your efficiency. With queue states clearly visible, you can track how much time you actually spend working.
- See things as they are. A task shouldn’t stay in a work-in-progress column unless it’s being actively worked on.
The image below gives you an example of a Kanban pull system where the workflow is split into active and queue states. Columns where tasks are being worked on (Development and Testing) are active states while columns where work waits to be pulled are labeled queue states (Done).
Once you have your queue states designed, and your work starts flowing through, you can analyze the efficiency of your flow. Several tools can help you measure the impact of waiting time.
One of them is the Cumulative Flow Diagram, which can be very helpful in revealing bottlenecks. An expanding band that represents a queue state signals there are too many tasks held up waiting, meaning your team is likely struggling with the demand.
To resolve this bottleneck, you could try allocating more people to work on the tasks in it or reduce the amount of work entering it.
Similarly, you can analyze at a glance how much time a specific task has spent in each one of your queue states with the Cycle Time Scatterplot. Watch out for tasks with longer cycle times, high up the plot. These are usually the best candidates for a closer examination.
By looking beyond the time your work spends waiting, you would be able to expose the factors dragging your productivity down right away.
Try Nave’s range of data analytics for free on your favorite platform.
How to Amplify Your Flow Efficiency?
While trying to improve their flow efficiency, many companies simply start working on more commitments, hoping it will bolster their production rate.
This, however, is a misconception as more work in progress (WIP) inevitably means more multi-tasking and queuing. Along with an imbalance between demand and throughput, this is in fact one of the most common causes behind high waiting times.
Improving flow efficiency starts with visualizing your wait. Once you’ve identified the tasks with the longest waiting times, think about the reasons behind their delays. Often, you’ll stumble upon a bottleneck along the way.
When you’ve discovered the areas where waiting times could be reduced, you can start designing experiments to cut them down and improve flow efficiency.
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.
A Big Thank You from Nave!
Choose your platform today and deliver outstanding customer value sooner with our range of analytical charts.… https://t.co/GrgYxf8b6tFollow
Learn more about how a Financial Technology Company in Brazil evolve from 20 teams running around 50 initiatives to… https://t.co/JoLLMkGWSjFollow
The Aging Chart for Trello helps you identify where your process is slowing down while tasks are still in progress.… https://t.co/5RydwqwjZRFollow
After many years of experience with classic waterfall projects at Sitegeist, in 2013 Gina and Sven started to compl… https://t.co/1dw6FOxe9WFollow
Large teams and complex projects face a common issue – the Kanban board becomes cluttered and hard to read. Learn h… https://t.co/TuoIYWQntOFollow
All of our plans come with full visibility into your past performance so that you can make decisions based on your… https://t.co/ddnuoojyLnFollow
Product teams who use Nave to analyze their workflows can make empirical predictions based on their performance dat… https://t.co/0Y3Joshk8CFollow
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/LTR6a6b8kUFollow
With Nave, you can use your favorite tool to boost your productivity and improve workflow efficiency.… https://t.co/nDYMHA2EXRFollow
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/p8fPPn63KdFollow
Nave's Kanban analytics suite helps you collaborate better and ship faster across all of your Azure boards. Unleash… https://t.co/6xCyOTQYTjFollow
Choose your platform today and deliver outstanding customer value sooner with our range of analytical charts that v… https://t.co/AsZekd9Mg0Follow
Follow this guide to quickly and easily set up Nave in Jira. We've broken down the process in three simple steps so… https://t.co/5WoVtly3AkFollow
Service level agreements define the responsibilities of a service provider to their customers. Defining SLAs are im… https://t.co/kxafc5u3xFFollow
Learn more about the key factors major Chinese banks adopted to enhance their business agility… https://t.co/huzY07aTmHFollow
The Cycle Time Histogram for Trello shows the overall distribution of the completion times of the tasks in your pro… https://t.co/sVpW5si6qAFollow
In Kanban, throughput is one of the key measures of flow efficiency. Learn how to track your workflow performance o… https://t.co/I3nrBKlLrRFollow
Nave’s range of Kanban analytics helps you spot performance trends at a glance. Select your platform and improve yo… https://t.co/B7AFPCmi3LFollow