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What is the difference between Lead time and Time to Pivot?

Last post 06:54 am January 11, 2022 by Ian Mitchell
3 replies
04:56 pm January 10, 2022


Can someone help me with understanding the difference between lead time and time to pivot? From their basic definitions they should very similar. Based on the EBM guide:

Lead time is the amount of time from when an idea is proposed, or a hypothesis is formed until a customer can benefit from that idea. This measure may vary based on customer and product. It is a contributing factor for customer satisfaction.

Time to pivot is a measure of true business agility that presents the elapsed time between when an organization receives feedback or new information and when it responds to that feedback; for example, the time between when it finds out that a competitor has delivered a new market-winning feature to when the organization responds with matching or exceeding new capabilities that measurably improve customer experience.

Does someone have or can think of an example where the lead time and time to pivot are different? 

Thank you.

10:15 pm January 10, 2022

Consider Lead Time as the duration from when an item is first created in a Product Backlog to the time it finally reaches Done.  Time to Pivot is the time it takes to incorporate the feedback received from stakeholders into the work that is going to be done.  Time to Pivot could be part of Lead Time. 

Consider this.  You have a stakeholder come to the Product Owner on March 1st to ask for an update to the product.  At that point the clock starts ticking on Lead Time.  

The Product Owner creates an item in the Product Backlog.  Over the next week there is work done to refine that item into units that could be delivered in each Sprint.  The first of these items is pulled into the two week sprint that starts on March 10th.  On March 17th, the Development Team finishes the work on that item and they approach the stakeholder for feedback on what they have done. At this point the clock starts ticking on Time to Pivot. 

The stakeholder reviews the work that has been done on March 18th and provides some feedback that the UI needs to have a couple of changes.  The Development team, having 1 week left in their Sprint, takes that feedback and has modifications done by March 22.  Time to Pivot = 5 days.  The Sprint ends on March 24th.  The next Sprint is fully dedicated to finishing the Product Backlog Items related to the initial stakeholder request.  On March 30th (halfway through the Sprint) all of those items have been completed and the stakeholder is approached for feedback. Clock starts ticking on Time to Pivot.  The feedback is received on March 31st. The Development Team is able to implement the changes by April 5th. Time to Pivot = 13 days.  On April 7th, the end of the second Sprint, the final update is delivered.  Lead time = 28 days.

This is a very simplistic example but I hope it helps you see the differences in the two metrics. 

02:00 am January 11, 2022

This is great explanation Daniel. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this. I really appreciate it.

06:54 am January 11, 2022

You could think of the difference in terms of the commitments that ought to be made. Right now, what are we able to achieve within a certain time?

An understanding of lead time could help a team to frame and achieve successive Sprint Goals. They'd know how long it took to complete essential scope for example.

Time to pivot could help teams in an organizational context to frame and achieve successive Product Goals. For example they'd know how long it took to adapt to a different customer, technology, or platform. The reflection is therefore on true business agility.

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