How long has work stayed open? Are we forgetting things?
Lead and Cycle time are useful for work that’s been completed. But the averages of those values ignore the items that are open, and have stayed open. The work items created and never done.
Examination of a medium sized development organization of around 400 people recently showed that although it proudly boasted an average 30-day cycle time it had several thousand items that were over a year old still outstanding!
Tracking the ages of outstanding open items helps balance the gaming and behavior driven measurement of a focus on Lead and Cycle times. A behavior can emerge where teams will only pick the easy incoming tasks, leaving the hard ones to fall into the “permanently open trap”. Measuring the age of open items helps to counter this behavior.
Of course, poor housekeeping and simply tracking many wish list items can lead to high ages on open items. For this reason, we recommend not tracking wish list items as part of work item metrics. The work item debt caused by poor housekeeping is harder to solve when it’s in the thousands of items.