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Basics of Reading Cumulative Flow Diagrams

Note: After reading this post, you may find these posts of interests as well:
Bottlenecks – Revisiting the Reading of Cumulative Flow Diagrams” dated 11/27/2012
Are You Just an Average CFD User?” dated 02/21/2014. Also, Dan Vacanti has also captured and expanded in greater detail on much of the topics touched on in this post, in his book titled “ActionableAgile.”

During our Agile Denver Kanban SIG’s September meeting, we revisited the previous month’s discussion on the “basics of reading cumulative flow diagrams.” I captured our initial questions and a brief summary of our discussion a few days later to post on our SIG’s LinkedIn site. However, I felt there was a bit more “food for thought” from our discussion to capture.

This post is the “expanded summary” inspired by our past two recent SIG meetings. If you’re relatively new to CFDs and still find the basics of reading them a bit puzzling, I hope these questions and the “walk-through style” responses help clear up a few things. If you see something that “smells” wrong or have an interesting insight, let me know that too!

First Things First!

If you’re completely new to CFDs, here are two links we used to “kick-off” our SIG’s discussions.

The first link is to a Slideshare post by Zsolt Fabok, on the basics of kanban. Check out slide 27 in particular though for a high-level visual and description of a CFD first.

The second link is to a blog post by Håkan Forss, where he does a great job showing step-by-step how to create a simple CFD using MS-Excel. This should help you get started creating your own but more importantly, even if you don’t create your own going forward, seeing and understanding the basic mechanics of creating one should help your understanding of them.

Wait, one quick question first, what is lead time, and what is cycle time, and how do they differ?