Metric: Team Throughput

 The Metrics and Reporting View looks at the various feedback cycles, metrics and reports in Holistic Software Development.

How quickly are we doing things? 

Throughput, or average time to close, is a useful indicator of how quickly the team is getting things done.

If the trend starts to go up, then we have an indicator that work is taking longer. This may be due to less resources, more complexity at the moment or a change in ways of working that has introduced waste and slowed things down. Alternatively, if the trend starts to reduce we can deduce that work is being done more quickly. This may be due to the work being simpler and smaller at the moment, more resources or a change in ways of working that has improved efficiency and productivity. To accurately understand when a work item has been closed the Definition of Done must be explicitly understood.

Different work items will be of various sizes in terms of both effort and complexity, however over both small and very large project and organization datasets, we have found that both tend to a normal distribution which means that tracking the average is a useful indicator. Extrapolating the average time to close to the length of an iteration, sprint or release gives an indicator of how many items can be done in that timebox, and therefore if plans are realistic or need refining.

This essentially gives a Velocity of “things done” rather than “abstract points”.

Lean and/or Continuous Flow teams will typically track Team Throughput as Lead and Cycle Time metrics.

Cycle Time is the time it takes to actually do a piece of work. Lead time is the time it takes from the request being raised and the work being completed. Lead Time and Cycle Time are measures common in Lean implementations. Lead Time = Cycle Time + Queue Time.

We have found that tracking these metrics can identify teams who are working at a steady state, improving or struggling. In terms of Behavior Driven Measurement we have seen the following behaviors emerge:

  • Work is broken down into smaller chunks
  • Those small chunks are delivered as quickly as possible
  • Reducing the amount of work in progress (WIP) at any one time

If we balance these behaviors with one that promotes quality over speed then the measurement driven behavior is positive for the teams.

There is a risk that focusing on speed reduces quality and so this metric, and resulting behaviors, need to be balanced with one that promotes quality over speed.