Is It Time To Press F9?

I have been an early adopter for many technologies. I was working from my Apple II at home long before I saw a PC of any kind in the workplace. Although I had used a spreadsheet program called Visi-Calc on my 40-character-wide monitor at home, I was amazed when I first got to use Lotus 1-2-3 when, at work, we started using a “luggable” Compaq PC.

If you work with big, complicated spreadsheets, or if you ever worked with spreadsheets when they first came out, you are likely aware that you can set spreadsheets to calculate on a manual command. This feature was an absolute must in the early years of PC’s. You didn’t want to wait for the computer to re-calculate the whole spreadsheet every time you changed one cell. With today’s processors and software, this is not an issue for too many people.

F9 is the key that Microsoft Excel designates for manual re-calculation. If you are not used to having the spreadsheet set to require this manual step, and you encounter one that does, you might end up reading data that is incorrect.

Sometimes, we get used to a certain way of doing things. We don’t always realize that a re-calculation is needed to make sure the formulas are delivering the most current result.

This can be true of policies especially. Think about a policy, take an absentee policy for example. Generally a policy is a product of information that was gathered at the time it was created or last revised. What type of absenteeism are we experiencing? Does our leadership encourage rewards for perfect attendance? And what is “perfect” anyway? Was that policy crafted before or after FMLA?

Sometimes, the input data changes, but we forget to press F9 and see if we have the right answer. If you are an active planner of your retirement, you might be doing a lot of spreadsheet adjusting these days. And pressing F9 can be discouraging as that retirement date or other savings goals seems further away.

For each of us, there is usually something in our work or personal lives that has become so routine we have forgotten to look at why we do it that way, or if we even need to do it at all anymore. I work for a company that has prided itself on strong internal controls. When Sarbanes-Oxley came around, we had work to do of course, but our foundation in controls made the transformation less complex than what many corporations faced. Now, with more emphasis on Lean Thinking, we challenge some of those controls. Our process for managing the recording of vacation time was greatly simplified last year by a simple acknowledgement that people can be trusted to manage this themselves. Changed the inputs, pressed F9, and things got simpler.

Don’t let that key sit idle. Find something that can use a little recalculation and you might find some freedom!

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