Cumulative Flow Diagram

Explanation of Cumulative Flow Diagram and the interpretations and insights it provides


A Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) is a visual tool used in Agile project management, particularly in Kanban and Scrum methodologies, to track the flow of work items through different stages of the workflow over time. It helps teams understand their work progress, identify bottlenecks, and improve process efficiency.

Cumulative Flow Diagram in Agile

Components of a Cumulative Flow Diagram

  1. Vertical Axis (Y-axis): Represents the number of work items.
  2. Horizontal Axis (X-axis): Represents time, typically in days, weeks, or sprints.
  3. Stages/Columns: Different phases of the workflow, such as “To Do,” “Work In Progress (WIP)”, and “Done”. Each stage is usually represented by a different color or area on the diagram.
  4. Lines or Areas: Each line or area shows the cumulative number of work items in each stage at any point in time. The area between the lines represents the number of items in a particular stage.

Interpretations and Insights:

  1. Work in Progress (WIP):
    • The height of each area shows the amount of WIP in each stage. Monitoring WIP helps teams maintain focus and avoid overloading any stage.
  2. Cycle Time:
    • The cycle time is the time it takes for an item to move through all stages, from start to finish. This can be determined by measuring the horizontal distance between the entry into the first stage and the exit from the last stage.
  3. Throughput:
    • Throughput is the rate at which items are completed. It can be visualized by the slope of the “Done” line. A steeper slope indicates higher throughput.
  4. Bottlenecks:
    • Bottlenecks are areas where work items accumulate, indicated by widening areas or flat slopes. Identifying and addressing bottlenecks is crucial for improving flow efficiency.
  5. Process Stability:
    • A stable process will have lines that move in parallel, indicating a consistent flow of work items. Diverging lines suggest variability and potential issues in the workflow.

By regularly reviewing and interpreting the CFD, Agile teams can gain valuable insights into their workflow, make data-driven decisions to optimize processes, and continuously improve their efficiency and productivity.

Last updated: June 26, 2024