Cycle time vs Lead time – what is the difference?

Cycle time vs Lead time – what is the difference?

(Local) Cycle time of a ticket – is how much time a work item spends in a specific activity or a defined sequence of activities. In other words, it is a time during which the item is being worked on in some stages. For example, the local cycle time for a test is the time a work item spends in the Testing column.

Cycle time may help to analyze the efficiency of the team. If the cycle times are low – your team`s performance is good. High cycle times may reflect the existence of bottlenecks and blockers. Low cycle time makes lead time low too, which may result in good delivery rates and satisfied clients.

Lead time – is the time you need to deliver the service / to fulfill the request. We calculate it from one commitment point (the point of accepting the order/request) to another commitment point which means the item is available for delivery or acceptance. 
Analyzing the lead time of tickets gives us an understanding of the lead time of our process/board.

Lead time types:

  • System Lead Time – the lead time from the first commitment point to the first unbounded queue (to the first queue that is not limited by WIP)
  • Customer Lead time – we start counting customer lead time from the point when a customer can legitimately expect us to work on an item until we can legitimately expect the customer to take delivery. Any additional waiting time on the delivery end is not counted. In a high-maturity Kanban implementation, just plain lead time means customer lead time.
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