Everyday Kanban

Discussing Management, Teams, Agile, Lean, Kanban & more

Flow Efficiency: Identifying work time vs. wait time

My blog post on Flow Efficiency seems to have been well received and, most importantly, generated some pretty good discussion on Facebook regarding how to distinguish between work time versus waiting time for your actual work.

I touched on the potential complexity of measuring these simple concepts in the introductory post to Flow Efficiency and suggest starting with a simple approach. Making the process of capturing working vs. waiting time too complicated can cause people to abandon the effort before it really starts. Start simply and only become more complex if it will add additional value.

The simplest way to start actually measuring flow efficiency is to design your Kanban board with columns that reflect time spent waiting as well as time spent working.

waiting vs working lanes

This allows you to capture the amount of time a card spends in working columns versus waiting columns. Electronic tools like LeanKit have this reporting capability built-in, but you can do this manually as well, it just takes discipline.  Visualizing the work vs the wait is a good first start. Now you’ll be able to get quantifiable data regarding the most obvious wait times in your system.

If I’m analyzing a threat to my world domination on the board above, the design doesn’t expect me to move cards back and forth from an active state to a waiting state whenever I take a break from doing the analyzing. It stays in analyzing until it can move to the next step: Done Analyzing. That goes for everything from 5 min breaks to nights and weekends.

Once you have a handle on moving work through those new columns and using the resulting information, you can decide if you want to go further to capture the less obvious waiting time for a card. This would include time incurred from interruptions, blockers, context-switching as well as anything else that can cause you to take a break from actively working on that item.

See the full conversation on Facebook >>


  1. Good point, interesting conversation! I think the waiting-working issue may be the additional value to articles and materials like http://kanbantool.com/kanban-library/analytics-and-metrics/predict-project-future-with-cumulative-flow-diagram or to all the lectures/workshops/etc. helping to intoduce Kanban. Thanks for sharing the issue!

  2. The author’s expertise shines through their practical examples and visuals, making complex concepts easily understandable. The article goes beyond theory, providing actionable tips for measuring and improving flow efficiency. Overall, it is an outstanding resource that deepens understanding and offers valuable insights for enhancing productivity.

  3. The way the author explains the importance of understanding these components in a Kanban system is both clear and practical. It has given me a fresh perspective on optimizing workflow and enhancing productivity. I’m grateful for stumbling upon this gem of knowledge! Kudos to the author for presenting such valuable insights in a compelling manner. This article is a must-read for anyone interested in improving their efficiency and making the most out of their processes.

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