4.0 17

Kanban: Definition of Lead Time and Cycle Time

originally written by

Our summary and key takeaways

If you've just started to do Kanban and would like to have the definition of Lead and Cycle Time clearly explained, you're in the right place. In this article, Stefan Roock will leave no doubt as to what is what.

What is a Lead Time?

The Lead time is the time from the moment when the request was made by a client and placed on a board to when all work on this item is completed and the request was delivered to the client. So it's the the total time the client is waiting for an item to be delivered.

What is a Cycle Time?

The Cycle time is the amount of time, that the team spent actually working on this item (without the time that the task spent waiting on the board). Therefore, the Cycle time should start being measured, when the item task enters the "working" column, not earlier.

So... what is the difference?

Stefan explains the difference between these two concepts on an example of a maintenance team and the way they get bug reports and the policy of the response time. They can define their response times by examining the lead time for the ticket processing (by measuring their capacity they know what reaction time and resolution time they can promise to the client).


From any business perspective, it's clear that the improvement efforts should be focused on the Lead time, as the Cycle time can be manipulated just by changing the process alone. What the clients are perceiving is the Lead time only, since they rarely have access to the inner processes.

Read our article on Lead & Cycle Time »