Don't Let Your Annual Plan Fail by Using Spreadsheets to Run Your Company

By Ted Skinner

    Mon, Oct 30, 2017 @ 11:30 AM Annual & Quarterly Planning

    Many companies have strong Annual Plans but fail to execute on them and miss their targets year after year. spreadsheet.jpgThey know that they are missing something, but they aren’t sure what. There are many reasons why nearly half of all companies fail to meet their annual targets, but one of the most important reasons is that they fail to implement a software system to drive company execution. 

    Many smaller organizations are using Excel spreadsheets to track their progress and run their company. For some, that may have worked when they were a very small organization, but once they reach 25 or more employees, they hit a new ceiling of complexity. At that size, the old systems no longer work, and many CEOs don’t realize it until it is too late. They get used to losing critical information in a long email list as they search for status updates on projects, trying to find the most recent report from a slew of emails. They should be collaborating in real time with colleagues with comments connected directly to their most important initiatives, the most important data and the vision across all of the departments contributing to the effort.

    There is a better way. Hundreds of companies have implemented thousands of plans with Rhythm Software to keep their annual and quarterly plans on track, solve problems faster at weekly adjustment meetings, help managers better utilize their resources and collaborate better on cross-functional projects. The cloud-based software allows you to connect your strategic thinking and annual plan directly to your daily execution. No longer will the efforts of your team be wasted on projects that don’t drive your corporate strategy.

    So, how do you know when it's time to leave Excel behind for a more sophisticated KPI dashboard?  

    The Top 6 signs you have outgrown spreadsheets to run your business:

    1. You were blindsided by an outcome in the previous quarter. Because most things are presented as lists in Excel, it's easy to miss something. Either it's buried in a list of 100 other things that aren’t organized in a meaningful way, or it's missing altogether. As the complexity of the business increases, the chance for missing a key metric increases. You’ve never used a publicly visible dashboard reviewed weekly that allows you to maintain focus on the key business drivers from the C-suite to the front lines. It's probably time for a business dashboard to help you drive strategy execution.

    2. You have created a winning annual plan, but no one knows it.  Walk out into your hallway, meet with the operations team or chat with your sales department. Can anyone tell you the Company Theme and Priorities for the quarter? Can anyone tell you how your most important Critical Numbers are doing against their goal? If your plan is in Excel with only a few people looking at it all the time, you're missing a huge opportunity to get the most out of your people. A firm of six people may be able to get away with using Excel constantly, but you quickly grow out of it. One visible dashboard for all to see becomes imperative and helps drive team accountability. If you haven’t created a winning annual plan, get our free annual planning guide.

    3. Your list of KPIs is out of control. You are measuring everything that moves rather than the metrics that matter. You’ve become best friends with Excel's continuous scroll feature. Sometimes we see teams that are measuring 50 or more KPIs at once. Most are usually behind where you want them to be, and the team is overwhelmed by numbers and isn’t clear on where they should be concentrating. Their lack of laser focus on a core set of 10-12 KPIs is making it difficult to move the needle on anything. One of the most important tips when performing your KPI audit: if a KPI is off target and it doesn’t trigger any actions, it isn’t a Key Performance Indicator.

    4. People struggle to connect daily execution to long-term business strategy. Why is my priority important again? If someone in the organization can't see how their priority connects to the bigger picture, they are less motivated on execution. It's tough to see this connection in a spreadsheet. Usually, this issue shows up as lots of Yellows and Reds on Priorities—the owner doesn't understand the impact of that Yellow and isn't motivated to adjust. Rhythm's Strategy Connector is sort of a "You Are Here" button. Click to see that this priority is important because it's driving a Company Priority, which is supporting an Annual Initiative that is helping us achieve a Winning Move.

    5. Your Weekly Meetings are long, boring, unorganized and all about status. During your Quarterly Planning Session, the team is focused on identifying their top Company and Individual Priorities for the next 13 weeks. What most teams usually don't think about is that what they are actually doing is building the blueprint for their Weekly Adjustment Meetings for the next 13 weeks, as well. The activities we all commit to in planning sessions are the things we are all going to be held accountable to our team for every week. Most teams using Excel struggle to find an efficient way to track a plan over 13 weeks with that level of accountability. Rhythm users input all of their Priorities in the Plan screens, and data is converted into a Weekly Meeting agenda on the Do screens. They can drive accountability all the way down to Action Items with due dates.  

    6. Your team energy is in silos. Some Excel files I've seen from new clients have a tab for each department to list their priorities. While this might work for a smaller firm, it actually promotes silos as an organization grows and complexity increases. Teams start planning and executing in their own little bubble instead of a top-down approach. Cascading into groups in Rhythm helps teams see how they impact each other and how they all connect to one "north star"—the Company Plan.

    So does any of this sound familiar? If so, it might be time to take the leap into dashboards. Make it real, make it visible and execute with Rhythm! Talk to a Rhythm Expert to see if we are right for you!

    Free Annual Planning Guide - Rhythm Systems  

    Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

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