Speed Loop 3: Realize Gain
This is the third and final post in the Speed Loop series. In the first post, we identified and prepared our recurring-project workbooks for speed. In the second post, we increased their value by improving efficiency and accuracy. Now it is time to leverage our time savings. The final step is: Realize Gain.
Before we jump into the detail, let’s take a quick look at the Speed Loop visual:
We enter the Realize Gain stage when we step out of the loop. We step out of the loop once all, or nearly all, of the manual tasks have been automated.
Now it is time to leverage our time savings by doing these two things:
Let’s talk about each.
Rebuild is what it sounds like … we rebuild the workbooks from scratch. But, don’t worry … it will be more enjoyable than you think.
I hear you …. “Jeff! You are crazy … I just finished getting the workbooks dialed in!”
I know, I know. But, here’s the thing. The improvements we made so far are incremental. We can attain next-level efficiency by rebuilding the set of workbooks from scratch.
You see, workbooks start off doing one small thing. Then, somewhere along the line, someone wants the workbook to also do this other thing. So, we patch and band-aid the workbook to accommodate that request. Then, another thing. Another patch. And so on. The scope of what it does changes over time. And as a result, we can end up with side-calculations and a disorganized workbook. But, now that the scope of the workbook is fully known, we can intentionally design it to accomplish specific tasks.
During this step, we consider the workbooks as a set (instead of individually). This means that some workbooks may need to be combined. For example, perhaps we have multiple workbooks that summarize the same data. Rather than import the same data into multiple workbooks, we may be able to combine them so that we only import the data into a single workbook.
Or, we may want to split one gigantic workbook into smaller, more modular workbooks.
We want to step back, think about the set of workbooks as a whole, and rebuild them knowing everything we know about the project now.
Also, when I say “from scratch” I mean “from scratch.” I don’t mean doing a copy/paste of all the formulas and so on. If all we did was copy/paste we’d end up with the same workbook.
I mean rewriting all formulas from scratch. Why? Because I bet that the formulas you are able to write at this point are more efficient, more reliable, and more elegant than the formulas you were able to write at the beginning of this process.
Or … perhaps you didn’t even write the original formula. Perhaps you inherited it from your predecessor. Or, maybe your predecessor’s predecessor. And I’ll be you can write better formulas.
Plus, you may be able to replace traditional approaches with modern approaches. For example, using Power Pivot instead of using a traditional PivotTable and combining multiple data tables with VLOOKUP. Or replacing formulas and helper columns with Power Query. And so on. Trust me … do it from scratch knowing everything you know now. You won’t be locked-in to anything you inherited, and you are free to design it intentionally using your current Excel knowledge.
And while you are, think about workbook and worksheet organization. Think about data flow. Think about documentation. Think about which workbooks need which data. Think about the reports. Think about the scope. Think about the tools available. Think big picture, take a holistic view.
Create a set of workbooks that YOU would have liked to inherit when you stepped into this role. Pass along better workbooks to the person who will inherit them from you. Leave your mark. Add your name to the Admin sheet so future employees will know your name. And, when they see your name, they will know that you built quality workbooks. With efficiency. With accuracy. Leave your legacy.
Once you have rebuilt the set of workbooks, you will be experiencing significant time savings. Now for the fun part … reinvesting the efficiency dividends.
You have now generated significant time savings. Processes that used to take hours now take minutes. We don’t want to waste the efficiency dividends … we want to reinvest time savings.
So, what does this look like? It means different things to different people.
It may mean that you reinvest time into your family by not working late nights or weekends. It may mean pursuing hobbies you never had time for. It may mean doing more meaningful work, and bigger projects. It may mean developing new business for your company. It may mean going on a walk at lunch. Taking an online class. Taking a course at a community college. Leaving the office early on Fridays.
Or, it may mean doing the Speed Loop again with another recurring project. Or, on a project for a different department. It may mean showing others in your organization how to do what you did. It may mean changing your role entirely. Now that you aren’t doing the mundane mechanical tasks, maybe you shift into more of an Improvement Process coordinator role, where you focus on making things more efficient. That’s what happened to me. Once I got the monthly close dialed in (taking it from 2 weeks per month to 2 days per month), I started automating projects for other departments. I had plenty of time … plus I loved it!
How you choose to spend your time is how you choose to spend your life. So, spend your time wisely. Be intentional.
Well friend, that is the Speed Loop. I really hope it can help you get your work done faster and save time.
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