Lean Measures

The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

Lean measures are valuable because they establish how well the process is performing. Measures (or “metrics”) can be used throughout the project lifecycle to establish a baseline and evaluate performance, measure the impact of improvements, validate changes are sustaining, and identify additional areas for improvements.

How to Apply It

  1. Identify the purpose or objective for your measurement – e.g. reduce overall process time, improve customer satisfaction, reduce the number of errors, etc.
  2. Confirm you have data available for your metric – e.g. if you want to measure customer satisfaction but have no survey data, you will need to create and distribute the survey.
  3. Establish baseline measures.
  4. Establish how frequently data is collected, measures reported and who is responsible for collection, reporting, and monitoring.
  5. Monitor/review measures regularly (e.g. monthly, quarterly)
Pearls and Pitfalls
  • Without a baseline measure it will be impossible to determine if the improvements are working; take time to gather the needed data.
  • Your project metrics should be aligned not only with your project objectives but also with your Department’s mission and goals.
  • Having a balanced set of 2 to 3 optimizing one factor at the expense of others (“Yes, we are delivering measures ensures we are not quick, but our quality has decreased”).

Common Lean Measures

Use the list below to guide your selection of project metrics. Remember the metrics you select should help you determine if you have achieved your project objective(s).

Time Metrics
When to Use
Lead Time
Total elapsed time to complete process step(s) including waiting and delays
Use when your objective is to reduce the overall process time
Cycle or Touch Time
Time to complete process step(s) excluding waiting and delays
Use to calculate the process capability (fastest time the process can be completed)
Quality Metrics
When to Use
Error Count or Rate
A total number (or percent) of mistakes
Use to identify areas that need improvement (e.g. a form that has a high error rate on 1 field)
Customer Satisfaction
Measurement of your customers’ attitudes, feelings or opinions
Use a survey with a Likert scale to allow you to statistically analyze your customer’s response
Employee Satisfaction
Measurement of your employees’ attitudes, feelings or opinions (can indicate potential employee turnover)
Use a survey with a Likert scale to allow you to statistically analyze your employees’ responses
Process Metrics
When to Use
Number of items waiting to enter/start the process; demand exceeds capacity
Use to help you manage and plan capacity to demand
Work in Progress(WIP)
Number of items that are being, or waiting to be, processed (e.g. 10 items siting in an inbox waiting)
Use to identify bottlenecks in a process
Number of Hand-offs
When an item is passed from one person or entity to another
Use to identify areas of potential delay or errors
Number of Approvals
Formal (e.g. signature required) authorizations
Use to identify delays in a process (e.g. is an approval really needed?)
Number of Process Steps
Total number of steps in a process
Use to indicate overall process complexity
Cost Metrics
When to Use
Freed Capacity
Measure of the additional employee capacity created by the improvement, represented as the number of fulltime employees (FTE)
Use when you don’t have enough people to get the job done (number of hour saved ÷ 1760 hours)
Dollar Savings
Reduction in expenses
Use to identify the dollar value of improvements (e.g. save $3,000/year on paper, toner, etc., by going electronic)