Stop Doubting Your Kanban Metrics and Start Making Confident Decisions
06 min read 235
To spot opportunities for improvement and drive meaningful change, you need to trust your data. But, too often, teams doubt their Kanban metrics and, as a result, don’t feel confident making decisions based on those numbers.
More than ever, data and analytics play a crucial role in decision-making – but if you don’t have confidence in your metrics, you can’t reap the full benefits of Kanban.
Today, we’ll dig into these issues, with an eye on identifying the root causes of any distrust you or your team may be experiencing.
How to Lean Into Your Kanban Metrics – and Make Better Decisions Along the Way
Kanban metrics are meant to drive decision-making – but, too often, teams don’t trust the data emerging from their processes. Why? In many cases, teams have had negative experiences with data accuracy in the past, and they carry those questions and doubts forward.
Here’s a good example. Let’s say two team members look at the same chart but see different results. My best advice? Before you jump to conclusions, consider digging deeper into what data you’re looking into.
- Have you both selected the same date range?
- Do you have the same filters applied?
- Do you have the same setup in place i.e. mapping the same process statuses, excluding non-working time, etc.?
My point: don’t make assumptions. Instead, look at the facts and try to understand where the differences come from first.
Another common scenario: people trying to compare the results they see on their charts with results from a different tool. If you’re doing this, I challenge you to come at it from a different angle. Comparing results from different tools is not the best approach to gaining your trust back. There are so many different things that impact metrics, including:
- Do these tools use the same dataset?
- Do they have the same setups?
- Do they use the same mechanisms to make calculations?
- If the results differ, which one should you trust more?
If your gut says the data you’re looking into doesn’t make sense, instead of comparing results, try to understand the specific scenario you’re analyzing and brainstorm what factors might influence the data. Or even better, contact your vendor and share your concerns. I’m pretty sure things will make sense quickly.
Ways to Build More Trust in Your Metrics
That’s just one of the ways to start building trust in your metrics. Some other strategies?
#1 Run Experiments
The best way to gain trust in your data is very simple. Just test it.
Think about how cycle time, throughput, work in progress or even flow efficiency is calculated. Take a limited set of 20 or 30 tickets from your board and put the numbers in Excel. Then verify the results with the tool you’re analyzing.
Here is a great example of how you can calculate the percentiles using your cycle time data to prove your point.
This approach will help you and your teams gain greater peace of mind and build confidence in your Kanban metrics – and that will boost your decision-making process.
#2 Build a Culture of Transparency
When everyone in the organization has access to the same metrics, there is greater trust and accountability. This ultimately boosts confidence and leads to better data-driven decisions.
Be sure you’re granting access to all your teammates and stakeholders. It’s important to have everyone on the same page when it comes to revealing and understanding actionable insights.
One of the principles of any agile transformation is transparency – that everyone has access to the data that drives change management initiatives and has a chance to give their perspective on the matter. The more narratives you can collect, the higher the chance you’ll make the most of your improvement efforts.
#3 Develop a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is a belief that our abilities and intelligence can be developed over time. By adopting a growth mindset, we can view mistakes and failures as opportunities for learning and improvement, rather than as a reflection of our abilities (or lack of…).
Your metrics don’t have to be perfect. Don’t get threatened by unpleasant pictures.
Let’s take a step back and think about the purpose of adopting Kanban metrics and analytics in the first place. The main goal is to gain visibility of the current state of our workflows. The ultimate purpose of these tools is to help us uncover areas for enhancement. We learn the lessons and then take action so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.
Learning from failure is the foundation of success. It is the secret ingredient that enables us to continuously improve our working practices, organizational culture, and ultimately increase business outcomes.
#4 Let Your Data Lead the Way
If you don’t trust your data, you won’t use it to make decisions. And if you don’t make data-driven decisions, you are stuck back to relying on intuition or good feelings. And that’s certainly not a recipe for long-term success.
If you’re struggling to deliver on your commitments, you want to understand where the delays come from. If you don’t make decisions based on your own past performance data, chances are, you won’t be able to understand what it is that actually slows you down.
For example, Is your QA specialist the bottleneck in the system? Maybe they can’t handle all the work produced by the developers? Is the work constantly being ignored due to other, more important work items constantly taking the lead? Is it being blocked by internal or external dependencies?
Your flow metrics and analytics will give you the answers. Without this information, you risk ending up pushing teams to work harder to meet their deadlines, when the solution actually lies in a simple tweak to your management practices.
You should always – and I can’t emphasize that enough – always let your performance data guide you towards your next steps.
Here’s what you do next. If you haven’t already, go ahead and connect Nave’s analytics suite to your management platform (it’s free for the first 14 days) →
Once you’ve created a dashboard with your data, analyze the results and let me know what you’ve discovered. Send me a DM on LinkedIn – I’d love to hear all about the opportunities for improvement you’ve revealed.
That’s it for today, my friend.
I hope I’ve convinced you by now that your data will empower you to help your teams find targeted solutions to deliver customer value faster. So let’s make sure that we do our best to address all the hurdles from the start to gain the peace of mind we need to make the most of our efforts.
Thanks for checking in and I look forward to seeing you again on Thursday, same time, same place! 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.
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