Using a Table to Visualize Performance Vs. Plan

A simple slide template to communicate performance to key stakeholders and ensure that everyone has a mutual understanding of how the business is performing.
Taylor Risner
|
Director of Ops at Superchart
November 15, 2022

There are many common business use cases in which to create slides for visualizing company performance. At Superchart, we often create slide decks to measure performance for weekly executive meetings, weekly all-hands meetings, monthly leadership meetings, quarterly board reviews and for other planning & analysis working sessions.

These slides are an effective tool to communicate performance to key stakeholders and ensure that everyone has a mutual understanding of how the business is performing. After creating alignment, leaders are armed with the information necessary to make critical decisions to ensure they stay on track to hit the plan. 

Nearly all businesses have set a plan for the year or other time period, in which they’ve identified key targets that they are driving towards to be successful. Typically these are financial targets but can also include targets for product, marketing, logistics, and other supporting functions. These targets are commonly referred to as KPIs (key performance indicators). 

The goal of reviewing company performance is to create clarity and alignment. The slides should support this goal; they need to be simple, concise, and clear. Leaders should be able to understand where to place their attention within a few minutes at most. 

For this reason, visualizing KPIs can often be trickier than one might think. Each KPI may be entirely different and require a unique visualization to show performance vs. plan in the appropriate manner. This can lead to a lot of visualizations spread across multiple slides, resulting in confusion and defeating the purpose of the meeting. 

When reviewing performance vs. plan, our recommendation is to use a simple table to very clearly illustrate where the business is over and under performing in a single slide. Follow our step-by-step instructions below to see how we use a table to measure KPI performance. 

Step 1: Create a Table With 4 Columns

  • The first column is for your KPIs or targets or whatever terminology your company uses. 
  • The second column is for the plan for the time-period you are measuring against. 
  • The third column is for the actual performance for the time-period that you are reporting on. 
  • The fourth column is to show the difference between the actual result and the planned target. 
Using a Table Slide to Measure Performance vs. Plan
Step 1: Create a Table With 4 Columns

Step 2: Fill In Your KPIs

Using a Table Slide to Measure Performance vs. Plan
Step 2: Fill In Your KPIs

Step 3: Fill In Your Planned Performance Targets

Be sure to properly label each target with the appropriate data labels before and after the text. This will make it clear to viewers what units each metric is being measured with. 

Using a Table Slide to Measure Performance vs. Plan
Step 3: Fill In Your Planned Performance Targets

Step 4: Fill In Your Actual Results Data

Make sure that your data labels match the labels in the second column so there is no confusion. 

Using a Table Slide to Measure Performance vs. Plan
Step 4: Fill In Your Actual Results Data

Step 5: Calculate the Difference Between Actual Results and Planned Performance

This likely goes without saying, but make sure your formula = Actual Results - Planned Performance. If you calculated the difference correctly, you should have positive figures displayed where you are performing above plan and negative figures shown for where you are underperforming vs. plan.

When displaying negative figures in the fourth column, we recommend using a negative sign (-) in front of all figures except for currency, in which we recommend using brackets (shown in the example for ARR). 

Slides calculating delta in actual vs plan.
Step 5: Calculate the Difference Between Actual Results and Planned Performance

Step 6: Apply Formatting To Make It Immediately Clear if Results Are Above or Below Plan

Colors and styling should be used to help articulate the story of your data. You can apply a blanket rule that all negative numbers should be shown in red and all positive numbers should be shown in green. We prefer to only place special formatting on the figures that show a large gap between performance vs. plan, so that we can quickly hone in on the core story. 

In this example we used green text and bold formatting to highlight large positive differences and we used red text and bold formatting for the large negative differences. It’s worth noting that the difference between actuals vs. plan should be evaluated on a scale basis. For example a 1% difference on a 100% target may be minimal, but a 1% difference on a 2% target is a huge difference that should be called out. 

Using a Table Slide to Measure Performance vs. Plan
Step 6: Apply formatting to make it clear if results are above or below plan

The last step is of course, to come prepared with any additional context that may be helpful for your stakeholders to understand the data. You should be ready to reiterate the methodology behind how each metric was set and how each metric is calculated. 

That’s it!

No more slides. No more visuals. No need to do anything fancy. 

With this simple table, your stakeholders will be able to quickly discern what wins to celebrate, what problem areas to focus on, and where their thought-leadership is needed. Start making your performance review meetings more effective today with this slide template. 

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