Why Using Spreadsheets for Planning Can Put You Out of Business
Written by Jeff Hughes, on March 16, 2021
For some companies, “business planning” means spreadsheet after spreadsheet and a lot of repetitive and tedious number crunching. But too often, the outcome of this type of planning process does not reflect the depth of thinking that a solid business plan must have. Although spreadsheets have their place, spreadsheet-only based plans rarely reflect the corporate strategic vision, primarily serving as a way to fund departments, programs, or projects and nothing more.
Spreadsheet planning alone almost always leads to a disconnect between the executive suite’s strategic vision and the way a business is actually being managed and run at departmental or division levels.
Worse yet, relying on spreadsheets alone is why some mid-sized businesses stop growing or even go out of business entirely…
The good news is that these kinds of disastrous consequences can be avoided by making simple changes to the way business planning is done…
By trading all the spreadsheet numbers for an aligned business plan tied to a vision and mission and backed by solid objectives and strategies designed to achieve the desired results. The true purpose of planning then is to create and cultivate a clear and single-minded focus on where the company is today and where it wants it to be in the future.
Often there can be a large gap between the executive suite and lower levels of an organization. Good leaders recognize that if a company is to succeed, all moving parts need to be moving in the same direction.
The good news is that many organizations have been successful in making the jump from spreadsheet-only planning to a more holistic approach that puts the future first and builds upon a strong foundation of mission and vision as the guiding principles… highlighting what gets done and why.
In well-planned, high-performing organizations, executives, managers, and key employees all know why the company exists and what its purpose is. They can see a clear picture of how their specific role and function helps the company achieve the mission and vision of the company’s leaders.
While I am not privy to the business planning and implementation processes at Apple, I find its strategic vision inspiring and their mission a reflection of the culture of a successful company. Reaching such heights is more about thinking through the words of the mission and vision and less about crunching spreadsheets that take their cue from revenue projections.
Ideally, business plans are created by individuals setting clear goals and objectives that are measured periodically and adjusted, based on external and internal business conditions. This bottom-up approach is where the foundation of organizational alignment starts and this is where employee engagement begins. Keeping score of KPIs, publishing results, and having laser-focused business review sessions are all part of that process.
In such organizations, top leadership are connected to and aligned with the people who get the work done every day. It helps keep the conversation flowing about how individuals and those leaders can work together more effectively to achieve their shared mission and vision.
Spreadsheet style planning alone will not do that…
That’s why a planning system that captures a company’s vision, mission, objectives, and strategies will outperform a hard drive full of spreadsheets every time!
Certainly, spreadsheets will always be needed, but with a more complete planning system, numbers will be crunched against predetermined, aligned, and researched objectives!