How To Apply Formula To Entire Column In Google Sheets Are Visual Formats For KPI Models Important? Using Natural Thought Processes to Promote Clarity

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Are Visual Formats For KPI Models Important? Using Natural Thought Processes to Promote Clarity

Can you understand the table of drawings immediately?

Accountants seem to have this talent. For the rest of us mere mortals, lists are helpful when it comes to shopping, and even that is a dubious proposition for the slobs among us.

We need a diagram that shows us the relationships between the numbers. This is because we are naturally good at understanding the relationships between physical objects. It is hard-wired into the human brain; it is a basic survival trait. It just comes naturally.

This is why the presentation format of the KPI model is so important.

The KPI model is presented as a diagram. It does not matter whether the diagram is drawn on a sheet of paper or as an Excel table on a computer screen. We understand the relationships it describes, the relationships between numbers.

The visual format is important for another reason. When I ask a group of people to describe what drives their business, they can. If I ask them to draw it, they can.

When I ask them to explain the same things using financial statements, they generally struggle.

There are two reasons for this. Understanding columns of figures is not natural to man; it is learned and many of us have not learned it. More importantly, this is not the world in which we do business. We live in a world of conversations with people, a world of decisions, pressures from customers, suppliers and unexpected events. Accounting reports arrive after the event, sometimes long after, too long to influence the decisions that created the outcome they reflect.

The connections between our momentary decisions and the financial impact on business performance are not the most important when we need to make them. We respond to other priorities. For many people working at the operational level in the company, these relationships have never been explained. All my experience shows that day-to-day operational decisions have a big impact on the results of most companies. It may not be obvious in the rarefied atmosphere of the boardroom, but it is always there, in the background.

Operational decisions made with a well-informed understanding of the impact on the company’s profitability are always better than decisions made in the dark. If supervisors can achieve this level of understanding, there will be a major business impact.

Can it be solved?

A good solution solves all these problems. It can be very simple.

When a small group of people work together to outline their KPI model, everyone gets a new perspective on the real world in which the company operates. Supervisors learn how their decisions affect profitability and how errors are compounded and multiplied through the system.

Senior managers learn how decisions made around the boardroom table affect operations on the shop floor, and understand the unintended consequences of systems that seem rational at first but distort decision-making processes. They can review the entire system and make simple changes to optimize it.

Collaborative model development and testing communicates the hierarchy of KPIs and allows them to be defined both across functional areas of the business and across functions for a “whole business” perspective. People understand how and why attempts to maximize productivity in one area can cannibalize productivity in an adjacent area.

Attempts to maximize everything rarely optimize the entire enterprise. The law of unintended consequences always applies.

When we give people a visual framework, they find the theory easy to understand and easy to put into practice. It doesn’t matter if the visual is a hand-drawn diagram on a large sheet of paper or an Excel workbook with different views of the business in linked worksheets. The important things are:

• The data is presented in two boxes with the description above and the number below.
• Links between 3, 4 or even 5 boxes are indicated by lines and arrows. Arrows always run from left to right on the page. Start with the entire tapestry and cut the fibers to the right side.
• In general, a linking formula is shown for each link +,- x,/. This is about as hard as math gets.
• Color coding can help people follow links; I use blue for revenue streams, pink for expense streams, etc.

If you want examples of how I simply build a model for Google KPI models, you can find my own hand-drawn explanation or a bunch of useful Excel models that you can use as a basis for developing your own.

Is there a difference between a KPI model and a KPI dashboard?

In my opinion, a dashboard also presents data in a graphical format, but most of them do not show relationships between KPIs or performance metrics between KPIs, which are part of the picture but not important enough to rank as KPIs. These are good for displaying KPI trends, but you can also do this in a KPI model by using Excel’s charting tools and plotting trends over time for the most important business revenue drivers.

A KPI dashboard is a good way to understand complex data sets. It just does a different job.

Summary of reasons for using the graphical format of the KPI model.

People interpret the graphic format as easily as breathing and their confidence grows. They believe in numbers. They interpret the flow of activities and \$ through the system like blood flowing through their arteries. The chart reflects their personal map of the system in which they work. As their sense of liberation expands, their creative thinking flourishes. Their decisions improve because they understand the impact of alternative decisions on the system in which they work.

I believe this is the reason for new ideas to flow, to improve business operations, or better yet, to outwit competitors.

When I lead a KPI modeling workshop, I know that it will produce great results. I hope I have been able to explain to you some of the reasons why this always happens.

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