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Do Spreadsheets Work For Continuous Improvement?

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Jan 27, 2015 5:42:00 AM

327536006_d1f6998aff_mManaging improvement work is hard. We often find ourselves constantly fighting fires, leaving us little time to improve our own improvement processes.

Ironic, isn’t it?

In trying to improve our organizations, we all too often end up making due with what we have and simply doing the best we can. For many organizations, this means a reliance on spreadsheets as a tool for managing continuous improvement. Spreadsheets have their advantages - they automate math, most people know how they work, and just about everyone with a computer has access to them. But, there are problems… for example, a spreadsheet on a shared drive can easily get corrupted or out of sync if multiple people try to open it at once.

Honestly, many people are still using spreadsheets simply because they’re easy and familiar - “the way we’ve always done it,” perhaps.  

Those reasons don’t sound very Lean to me.

As practitioners of continuous improvement, it’s important that we take the time to not only look for opportunities for improvement throughout the organization, but also that we take the time to examine our own work. This will enable us to maximize the impact of our efforts throughout the organization.

Here are some common lies we tell ourselves about our spreadsheets:

  1. "Spreadsheets work for continuous improvement."

    To me, this one is the biggest lie of all. Sure, you have a spreadsheet that your entire team has access to - but how often are you really checking it?

    Imagine this. Let’s say Harry adds an opportunity for improvement to the spreadsheet. His boss signs off on it and Harry gets to work. Meanwhile, Laura adds a comment to the spreadsheet that negates the validity of the idea.

    Harry has no reason to check the spreadsheet at this point, so he doesn’t see Laura’s comment. He spends weeks working on his project, only to find it was all for naught when he finally opens the spreadsheet to log his impact.

    That doesn’t sound like effective communication to me.

  2. "Spreadsheets keep a record of the work we’ve done."

    This one may technically be true, but in practice, that record is useless. Let’s say you’ve been doing continuous improvement for three years, and have diligently logged each improvement idea in your spreadsheet.

    Do you really think that someone is going to search through that spreadsheet to see if they can learn from the work of others? Can your executives really look at that data to see what’s been done to address their strategic initiatives? Sure, you technically have a record of what you’ve done - but it’s useless.

  3. "Spreadsheets store all of our information in one place."

    I’ve seen a lot of spreadsheets from customers who wised up and switched to KaiNexus, and one of the most common mistakes I see in them is the words “refer to emailed document” for more information. This is helpful if you’re the recipient of that email, yes, but worthless to everyone else. Tools like Google Docs and Dropbox are good for storing those extra documents, but finding what you’re looking for can be a nightmare (and many organizations block access to these web services). Any information that is kept somewhere else because it doesn’t fit in your spreadsheet, such as photos or attachments, may as well be tossed in the trash, for how much value it adds.

  4. "They help different work areas collaborate."

    In theory, putting all opportunities for improvement in one spreadsheet and then giving multiple departments access to them means that they can work together to solve common problems and learn from the experiences of each other. In reality, though, the efforts don’t sync up as planned, and each department ends up solving the problems on their own. With each group reinventing the wheel, there’s very little collaboration going on.


This is just the beginning of the laundry list of lies we tell ourselves about spreadsheets, but I think you get the idea. Just because we’re storing information in a spreadsheet doesn’t mean that people are willing (or able) to use it as intended, rendering it inefficient and ineffective.

There’s a better way.

The KaiNexus continuous improvement and innovation software solves all of the problems inherent with spreadsheets. 


Here's how KaiNexus is different: 

Effective Communication

When someone comes up with a new improvement idea, the right person is notified about it. The same goes for questions, comments, updates, and resolutions. KaiNexus automates communication about all key elements of the improvement work, making sure that the right people are notified of the right information at the right time.

Permanent, Accessible Record

KaiNexus creates an easily searchable database of all current and past improvements, so that people can easily find what they’re looking for. Frontline employees can see what’s already been done to address their problems, and executives can see who’s doing what to address their strategic initiatives. This level of transparency ensures that each improvement has a maximum, lasting impact.

Unified Database

KaiNexus keeps track of the planning and impact information for each improvement idea, task assignments and statuses, and all communications between collaborators. The software also allows you to attach any relevant files or links, eliminating the need to search through other databases to find the information. Plus, nothing gets out of sync when multiple people are using KaiNexus at the same time. Everything is kept in one place, giving you a single, reliable point of reference for improvement information. 

Real Collaboration

Teams are built around opportunities for improvement in KaiNexus without regard to where people work. Organizations that operate in multiple shifts and locations find that their staff can work together more effectively than ever before with KaiNexus, as our software de-silos improvement efforts. Searching the database of ideas lets people see what other areas are working on so that they can work together to solve common problems.


Start today.

You ask the people in your organization to embrace continuous improvement by challenging the status quo to make things better… it’s time you demand the same from your continuous improvement group. Make the switch from ineffective spreadsheets to the powerful, effective KaiNexus continuous improvement and innovation platform today.

What problems have spreadsheets caused in your organization? Leave a comment and share your story!


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Topics: Daily Improvement, Innovation Software, Software, Daily Lean Management

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