Lagging and leading indicators

Last post 06:11 pm June 10, 2021
by Martien van Steenbergen
5 replies
05:50 pm November 6, 2019


I've confusion about the concept of lagging and leading regarding indicators. I know Cycle time is a lagging indicator, it's known when the element is ended. Work item age is leading indicator, you can know how is respect the average of the cycle.

Others indicadors:

Is it WIP leading indicator similar to work item age?, but Are throughtput and service level expectation lagging indicator as Cycle Time?





06:15 pm November 6, 2019

There's a good explanation of these within the EBM Guide if you'd like to check that out. 

Throughput could fall under a leading / lagging depending on how often you're measuring it and what you're using the data for. If I'm looking backwards to determine my average throughput it becomes a lagging indicator. If I'm looking at my throughput each day it becomes a leading. 

I wouldn't have typically thought of an SLE as an indicator in and of itself. Perhaps the ratio in which you meet a given SLE could become leading or lagging. 

09:38 pm November 6, 2019

Is it WIP leading indicator similar to work item age?

How do you measure it? If you can see inside to count WIP, it will be a leading indicator, since there is no delay. If you have to apply Little’s Law then the measurement will lag.

04:57 pm November 8, 2019

Thanks Tony and Ian. I¡ve got some ideas from your comments.

01:49 pm February 26, 2021

Indicators always relate to some event.
Being a Leading or Lagging will depend on the event that it indicates.

  • So, if we measure something that indicates an event that will occur in the future, We call this measure a Leading Indicator.
  • On the other hand, if that measure confirms something that already happened in the past, we will call it a Lagging Indicator.

That's the reason the same measure, can be classified as a Leading Indicator for one thing and a Lagging Indicator for another thing.

12:25 pm June 10, 2021

Still confused. I agree with Mauricio. An indicator is a measurement of something happened in the past. Some indicators set expectations for the (near) future. Only those are leading indicators.

In other words, you may say, “Some results from the past set expectations for the future”. In investment context, the saying goes, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” With leading indicators you may say, “Past performance can set expectations for future results.”

This is why I consider (average) cycle time a leading indicator: if items take 5 days on average to travel from start to finish, my guess is that near future items will also take 5 days on average, right?

Am I missing something?