Trying to Fit a “Square” Peg into a “Round” Spreadsheet

Recently, my team and I were working on a project and I wanted to be able to view specific information “at a (quick) glance.” Key word: “Quick.” I also wanted to be able to track information. I thought “at a glance” would be an efficient method to track data for performance and provide updates. I wanted to be able to determine in less than thirty seconds where we were, identify gaps, and know specifically where we needed to focus.


Several team members tried using a spreadsheet as the method of capturing and tracking the information. After some time, it became apparent that this was not going to go the way I had hoped. It became obvious that the wrong tool was being used and, as a result, we were spending a significant amount of time trying to use a method that was not only inefficient, but didn’t deliver what we needed.


Spreadsheets are very useful and can be used for quite a few things, but sometimes they just aren’t the right solution.


From this experience, here are some lessons I learned by “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” In other words, how to know when to proceed with a tool or abandon it altogether.


1. Don’t force something to work. Research a better solution and move on quickly.

2. Always use the right tools. If you don’t, the result will be not getting the results that you need to obtain the desired outcome and/or time consuming.

3. Admit when it’s time to move on. Don’t be stubborn or get stuck with a preconceived solution.

4. Time is definitely money. Forcing a preconceived solution is costly in both time and money.

5. Simplicity is a key. If it’s taking a long time to develop, provide results or administrate, it’s not working. Read #4 again!


How does my story end?


Well, I never really got what I actually needed. Today my “at a (quick) glance” spreadsheet requires a multitude of tasks which generates multiple questions, requires navigating through multiple tabs and still takes about a quarter of an hour to accomplish. Doing this several times a week regularly is a lot of time. And, that doesn’t include the time for administration.

What have I learned from it all? Next time I have a square peg, I’ll be sure to find the right technology tool to accomplish the task at hand. #nomorespreadsheets

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