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What is the Lead Time in Your Process?

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Our summary and key takeaways

The Lead Time in Kanban is the exact time, that your customer has to wait for their request to be delivered. Although the article could very well end here, Zsolt Fabók will explain a little more on this matter.

The issue with Lead Time

The main problem regarding the Lead Time are the many different definitions of what it actually is. By nature it should have a clear definition, so that teams can communicate with each other, but it really is not.

The different definitions of Lead Time

Zsolt had come across three different ones:

  • Measured from the initial idea from the customer (before any commitments or basic requirements outlined.
  • Measured from when the idea gets to the “ready to start working on” queue, so that this is a promise of delivery, not a commitment yet (requirements are still not specified).
  • Measured from when the team is actually starting to work on the item, but this isn't quite correct, since the customer's waiting time had begun long before this.

Following the same logic, the Lead Time does not finish when the team had finished working on the item, it ends when the customer gets it in their hands. So, for both the start and finish, you're measuring how long the customer is waiting for the delivery, not how long you've worked on it.

The final definition

So, the Lead Time actually consists of three parts – the main working part and two waiting parts – waiting to start work after commitment and waiting for the item to be delivered to the customer. All three phases of such defined Lead Time are in the team's or their manager's control. Shortening the time of acceptance, development and deployment processes can significantly reduce the overall Lead Time and bring better value to the customer. This principle applies to all industries with flexible processes. Take advantage of the improvement opportunity that a properly measured Lead Time offers.

Read an article on Lead & Cycle Time to get a full picture of how the Lead Time is calculated »