“If you measure anything, measure wait time” – Dominica DeGrandis, Making Work Visible
A major part of Flow Metrics is tracking all the work that goes into planning, building and delivering a product for the business. Just as it’s important to track how much value you’re delivering, how long work is takin, and how much WIP your teams have, it’s also vital to track what work is actively (code, test, automation, designing and all that creative work) being worked on to identify where waste and wait states are holding up value delivery. Flow Efficiency is the percentage of time that your Flow Items (features, defects, debt, risk) are actively being worked on compared to the total time spent in the value stream. If your Flow Efficiency is low, it’s an indication of waste – items stagnating in a wait state for some reason or another.
You can see a domino effect: the more items you have waiting means the more WIP (Flow Load) and the larger the queues in the value stream. As queues grow, waste increases through overutilization and context-switching, adding even further delay. Using the Flow Efficiency metric, you can readily see excessive wait times and work to reduce or eliminate bottlenecks.
It’s important to note that this metric is based on Flow Time (elapsed time work takes to be completed from the moment it enters the value stream), not cycle time (the time it takes to complete a single step in the manufacturing process). Flow Efficiency, therefore, captures wait time both upstream and downstream, monitoring the whole value stream and process from end-to-end.
Flow Efficiency in Action
When is Work Really “Done”?
An enterprise’s value stream often comprises many work states and transitions. So many variations can make it extremely difficult to identify where work is actually waiting. It’s important, then, to be able to abstract this information. The Flow Framework enables you to do that by enforcing four key states: new, active, waiting and done.
One large U.S. healthcare organization was able to use the Flow Efficiency metric to improve their processes. While they had a strong Flow Velocity, the team happiness was very low with complaints around too much context switching.
By using Flow Metrics in relation to feature work, they could see that there was high Flow Load and strong cycle time. Curiously, their Flow Efficiency indicated that there were nearly no wait states. By digging deeper, they could see that many work items were stuck in an active state, with a team of eight working on a staggering 120 “active” items.
In this story, which was similar to another story at a large financial services firm, the Flow Efficiency was actually a false positive. It highlighted that they needed to rethink how they tag work, enabling them to improve the way they work. This is something they would not have focused on without the visibility provided by Flow Metrics.
A Deeper Drive into Flow Metrics
The Flow Institute offers a range of courses on the Flow Framework and Value Stream Management.
In this on-demand course by Dominica DeGrandis (bestselling author of Making Work Visible) introduces the Flow Metrics, providing a deeper dive into what they are and why you need them. The course explains the theory behind Flow Time, Flow Velocity, Flow Efficiency, Flow Load and Flow Distribution.
Measure What Matters in Software Delivery…
Traditional organizations have no real form of measurement that can tell organizations if investments in their digital transformation are working – until now.
Flow Metrics—from Dr. Mik Kersten’s the Flow Framework®—provide business and IT leadership with a critical window into the enigmatic world of enterprise software delivery.
These business-level metrics provide a common language between business and IT so you can make collaborative decisions around software delivery to achieve innovation velocity.
- Learn more about each Flow Metrics
- Measure what matters in software delivery
- See real-life examples of Flow Metrics in action
- Begin your journey from project to product