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Estimation and Measurement Approaches in Kanban

by Rahman Usta

As we all know, Kanban focuses on increasing the speed of product delivery, by applying a couple of simple rules.
The basic ways in which Kanban influences the team are:

  • Visualizing the workflow
  • Making the time it takes to deliver the product to the end customer much shorter
  • Enabling you to see any impediments as soon as they occur
  • Great impediment solving capabilities

WIP limits

You can think of Kanban as a task queuing solution, since new items are being added at the bottom of a column, and available team members pull work from the top of it. Following this rule, you should be able to estimate the throughput by simply dividing the number of tasks in progress by the average lead time (this is basically Little's Law).
Also, by knowing the project's deadline and having the average lead time available, you can decide on a necessary Work In Progress limit.

Applying WIP limits is beneficial for a number of reasons, main one being the ability to cut out any multi-tasking, which only creates waste in the long run, both by feeding lack of focus and creating the necessity of context switching.

Kanban analysis

The chart most typical for Kanban is the Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) - a useful tool, that shows a detailed picture of the entire process - the relative amount of work for each stage of a project over time. The knowledge you get from a CFD can be used to improve the process.
The author also recommends Weekly Velocity analysis, providing a comparison of the number of stories finished in each week, therefore giving an indication of the project's accuracy.

Improvement opportunities

Thanks to the limited amount of work in progress any problems and lack of balance within the process come up to the surface more quickly. And each of these issues is an improvement opportunity. In order to stay within the Kanban methodology, the process needs to always be perfected.


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Read our article on Kanban analytics & metrics »