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

Last post 11:13 am May 28, 2023 by Nicholas Gabrichidze
7 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.

08:24 am May 27, 2023

Usually I like to bring examples from simple business activity(where Scrum can be also applied) to address and explain things. Some people in the development field think that comparing highly skilled programmers or architects to street vendors or blue collar workers is a bit overreach, but I think it's a good way to make my explanations clear.

So imagine that you want to start a business selling the juvellerelly earrings and bracelets to tourists at the artisan market in the city near your house.

You begin to think about it, then ordering some hardware tools to make the bracelets and earrings, setting up the workshop in the attic, and making arrangements with a neighbour who has a pickup track, so he can bring your staff to the market. When your earrings and bracelets are ready you go to the nearby city, visit the market, buy the market stall, and make all arrangements with whomever necessary so you can start selling your stuff. Next morning you put your earrings and bracelets at the neighbours track, go to the market, put goods on the counter, and soon the first customer begins to bargain about price with you...

The time which passed from the moment when the IDEA of selling the earrings and bracelets came in your mind to the moment the first customer has paid you a price and took merchandise home is a LEAD TIME.

Once you start selling, the customers begin sharing their opinion about your merchandise. Someone has returned the earring saying that it does not hold, another customer complained that the bracelet breaks easily, someone else is trying to bring the price down saying that at the stroll around the corner the similar items are twice cheaper.

And here PIVOT TIME begins ticking. It is a time which will pass from the moments when you have heard all  those complaints and remarks to the moment when you will figure out, how can you improve your trade, so earrings would not fall down, bracelets would not break, and how your retail prices could be lower compared to the dude around the corner..

Once you will create a plan to make actual improvement, will get a new tools to make both bracelet and earrings steady and less fragile; and also will use a storage at the city, so you don't have to bring your merchandize back and forth, saving on fuel, which will allow you to make better price 

Lead Time and Time to Pivot are NOT two completely different things.

Time to Pivot can be part of Lead time, in the same way like fixing a shower can be part of overall fixing a plumbing in the house. Or like Scrum is part of Agile...

In our example Time to PIvot would be a part of Lead time too. It would happen if, instead of ordering tools to make your bracelets and earrings on Amazon and talking to the neighbour about his pick up track to bring stuff to the market, you would first go to the next city, and talk to the street vendors and their clients about how the earrings and bracelets are sold, what people like and what they don't.

And, if you would then would consider all what you have heard while designing and crafting your merchandise..

In that case LEAD TIME counts from the moment you had an idea to sell the bracelets and earrings.

While TIME TO PIVOT counts from the moment you went to the market and begin talking to people to gather some more information about this business

Now I understand that you might think that selling bracelets and earrings is a different things compared to software development of lets say cloud architecture, but in a nutshell its a same thing: you and your colleagues are making some GOODS and SERVICES to sell, put them on the MARKET and customers purchase them. So you can try to imagine any of your products in a same way

If you work for non profit and aren't measuring the value monetary, things can be bit harder to establish, but then its PO's job to establish what is the metrics for the value and define customers and end users  for a product you are releasing.

11:43 am May 27, 2023

Measures - Pizza edition.

Let me try out examples using ordering a pizza…

Lead time is the amount of time between when I call in my order and the pizza is delivered to my door. 

Time to pivot could be the time it takes for the restaurant to learn that its competitor is stuffing its crust with cheese, and figuring out how they too can stuff their crusts with cheese to match or exceed their competitors and improve customer experience through new stuffed crust capabilities.

Not part of the question, but continuing with the pizza analogy…

Mean time to repair could be the time it takes for the pizza restaurant to re-make and re-deliver my order because they delivered me the wrong pizza.

Cycle time could be the time it takes to actually make the pizza at the restaurant.

Throughput could be the number of pizzas made in an hour (or other time period).

Work in Progress is the number of pizzas being made at the moment of measuring.

Work item age is how long a pizza has been sitting on the prep counter unfinished.

Velocity could be the number of pizza orders turned into deliveries during a shift. This one makes me loose my appetite. Pizza analogy finished. 

11:07 am May 28, 2023

Good example Ryan, I just have remark.

If pizza is made by self managed team of cook-developers(which is fine according to new Scrum guide), the VELOCITY is not "number of pizza orders turned into deliveries during a shift"

Its a guess of how many pizzas the cook-developers think they will be delivering during a shift, made by cook-developers themselves.

11:13 am May 28, 2023

  It's worth mentioning that while the artisan bracelet and earring merchant to explain Scrum terminology is my invention, the fast food supply by demand system as a basis of Kanban was actually used by   Taiichi Ohno, one of the "founding fathers" of Agile

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