5 Common Mistakes You’re Making When Collecting and Reviewing Kanban Metrics (+ How to Fix Them)
Drowning in a sea of information? I get it – It’s easy to get lost and lose focus in the sheer volume of insights that Kanban metrics provide. But while it can be easy to head your attention in the wrong direction, it’s just as easy to course-correct – and, with that, to accelerate your development processes.
Today, my goal is to help you spot mistakes you could be making when collecting and reviewing Kanban metrics. And if you do spot one of these pitfalls? I’ll share the very next steps you can take to help you shift your focus back to what’s driving meaningful process improvement.
5 Costly Mistakes Holding You Back When Reviewing Your Kanban Metrics
Let’s review the five mistakes that have the potential to hinder your progress and reveal how to fix each and every one of them.
Mistake #1: Collecting Too Much Data
Whether you’ve been collecting metrics from the very beginning of your board creation or you’re just getting started with new teams, is pretty much beside the point.
One of the biggest mistakes I see teams make is collecting too much data. And that’s especially true when it comes to making probabilistic forecasts.
When it comes to Kanban metrics, more isn’t always more. The volume itself doesn’t play a role here. What you need is relevant data. So, how do you distinguish relevant from irrelevant data?
If you’ve recently changed your workflow, introduced new process policies, or had people join or leave the team, it’s important to observe how these changes affect your performance metrics. Your data needs to reflect both your current conditions and the team’s capability, without being influenced by older, irrelevant data.
Mistake #2: Taking Your Eyes Off the Metrics
Another mistake that many teams make: not reviewing metrics regularly.
Metrics are only useful if they’re reviewed and acted on quickly. Failing to review metrics regularly can lead to oversights – and that can keep your teams from spotting massive improvement opportunities.
To build a long-term habit, be sure to establish a set of cadences that inform your decisions – then commit to acting on these insights. That’s the only way Kanban metrics make sense.
There are seven essential Kanban meetings or cadences to implement. From quick daily check-ins within your teams to big-picture strategy reviews with senior executives, Kanban meetings keep interconnected systems operating efficiently while identifying problem areas and assessing overall customer satisfaction.
Look in your calendar of existing meetings to see which can be adapted or added to – many of these meetings can be incorporated into your current schedule.
Mistake #3: Gathering Data for Data’s Sake
Collecting and reviewing metrics is only half the battle – you also need a strategy for interpreting and acting on those numbers.
Data without a story is just a picture. Your Kanban metrics are not good for much if you don’t use them to drive improvement. Without clarity, you can’t drive meaningful change.
So why is this such a common challenge? It’s simple: if you don’t take the context of your metrics into account – or if you’re interpreting them in isolation – you run the risk of jeopardizing your entire business agility initiative.
To avoid this mistake, make sure you’re using metrics to continuously improve the way you manage your work. That means using your Kanban metrics to set goals, identify areas for improvement, and track your progress over time. That’s the secret to long-term success.
Mistake #4: Keeping Your Teams Out of the Picture
Remember, teams own their Kanban data. It represents their processes, their practices, and ultimately their behavior. And it should be teams who make decisions based on the insights they get from that data.
This is key – and so often overlooked. Kanban metrics represent your teams’ behavior and can be influenced by them changing that same behavior.
To drive impact, your teams must take ownership. At the end of the day, we’re here to help them improve their processes – so, as a leader, let them do just that.
By letting teams be accountable for their own metrics, they’ll be better equipped to reveal opportunities for improvement and set the rules. And with well-thought-through rules in place, there will be no reason to break them.
Mistake #5: Focusing Too Much on the Numbers
Whether or not cycle time, throughput or flow efficiency are high or low doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where you are now, there’s no need to place judgment on your current situation.
What’s more important? How your trends build over time. Is your cycle time going down and your throughput going up? Do you observe improvement in your performance?
If that’s the case, this means that the changes you’ve implemented are working. If not, you have to look back and see what has made your trends decline.
Continuous improvement initiatives are all about making experiments and measuring how the changes we have introduced impact our flow metrics’ trends.
If the initiative is successful, we make it a standard. If it fails, we embrace the shortcomings and turn them into opportunities. There is no right or wrong here.
Spoiler alert! The only time you should be worried is when a trend is shifting, but neither you nor your team know why this is happening.
You all have to be crystal clear about the impact of your decisions and how they affect your performance. Being predictable means you are in control of your management practices. It means that when a drop or spike in your performance occurs, you understand the real reason behind it.
By following the tips outlined in this article, you can ensure that you are collecting and reviewing your metrics to drive meaningful change.
Here is your today’s action item: If you haven’t already, go ahead and hook up Nave to your management platform (it’s free for the first 14 days!) →
With our analytics suite, you’ll have access to resources, ongoing support, and everything you need to help your teams nail their commitments and build better products faster.
That’s it for today. By following these strategies, you’ll avoid the most common traps when it comes to collecting and reviewing Kanban metrics – and be positioned for success.
Thanks for checking in with me. I’m excited to see you again next Tuesday, same time and place, for more action-packed managerial insights. Bye for now!
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.