Skip to content
× FreshBooks App Logo
FreshBooks
Official App
Free - Google Play
Get it
You're currently on our US site. Select your regional site here:
5 Min. Read

Cycle Time Vs Lead Time in the Kanban Method

Cycle Time Vs Lead Time in the Kanban Method

The Kanban method increases your productivity as a team. But to truly use it to its full potential, it helps to understand cycle time and lead time. Learn more!

The Kanban method is based on workflow management. It’s a way to move a project forward on a visual board. You outline the tasks and the several stages that the tasks need to flow through to get the project to completion. This project management tool was first popularized by Toyota in the 1940s. Now we have Kanban software and online productivity systems that help to drive Kanban projects forward.

To use the Kanban method effectively, you need to know the definitions of two key terms. Lead time and cycle time.

This guide will clarify both terms so you can use the Kanban technique to its full potential!

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

What Is Lead Time?

What Is Cycle time?

Lead Time Vs. Cycle Time

Shortening the Gap Between Lead Time and Cycle Time

Key Takeaways

What Is Lead Time?

Lead time is the total amount of time that a client or manager is waiting for a task to be completed and delivered. Lead time includes:

  • The time from when you accept the task
  • The task is put on the board
  • The period of time to complete the task during the production process
  • The amount of time to deliver the task to the client or manager

What Is Cycle time?

Cycle time is slightly different. Cycle time does not begin until the task enters the “in progress” stage. A task hasn’t entered the cycle until someone in your development team is actually working on it.

Cycle time includes:

  • The moment that the task moves to the “in progress” section of the Kanban.
  • The duration that it takes to complete the task during the production process
  • Product delivery to the client or manager
  • Marking the task as complete

Lead Time Vs. Cycle Time

So the best way to describe cycle time and lead time is to consider the entire workflow from beginning to end.

Customer lead time starts from the very beginning. Accepting the job is the first step. The lead time clock begins there. It encapsulates the entire process from that point to marking the task as delivered and complete.

Cycle time is part of the lead time. It just begins further along in the process. The cycle time is the actual active working period in the workflow.

Shortening the Gap Between Lead Time and Cycle Time

To have a more efficient business and workflow, it’s helpful to reduce the lead time as much as possible. The most gains you can make in terms of time is by shortening the beginning. The gap between the beginning of the lead time and the beginning of the cycle time is pre-processing time. It’s mostly made up of inputting the task, scheduling and delegating it to someone. Then you have to wait for the team member to actually start the task. Cue procrastination.

These are our top tips for shortening that time so you can get started on tasks quicker.

  1. Do a Time Audit

    The best way to make work time more efficient is to measure it. What gets measured gets managed. We rarely track time when completing tasks to get the full picture of how much time we spend on any one thing. But this is the only way to get accurate times. Using timesheets and online time tracking tools are extremely helpful here. See where the inefficiencies lie in your development process. Or perhaps your pre-processing time is slowing things down. It could be that it takes ages to delegate tasks.

    How can you optimize this process in the future? Maybe team members can claim their own tasks. This will save you a job as a project manager. Once you have your time audit for all team members you can calculate accurate lead times. You'll know what an acceptable waiting time will be to meet customer demand.
  1. Learn Techniques to Reduce Procrastination

    Time management tips like time blocking, batching and the pomodoro technique are all extremely useful. You could cut the beginning of your lead time in half by lowering procrastination for yourself and your team. Imagine if you set aside 25 mins on a Monday to batch delegate tasks to your team. They can get started on their weekly schedule straight away and this infinitely cuts down on scheduling and delegation time.
  1. Use Online Kanban Planning Software That the Entire Team Can Use

    Using online software for Kanban planning also makes your office workflow more efficient. Having a shared project Kanban enables everyone to see the stages of the project.

Key Takeaways

Ultimately, lead time is the whole pie and cycle time is a slice. The goal is to lessen the amount of time between the lead time and cycle time for a more efficient workflow. Your customer satisfaction will only increase if you can deliver results to them faster!

For more productivity guides like this one, head to our resource hub.


RELATED ARTICLES