How many metrics do you need to truly understand what’s happening in your business?  The answer may vary, but generally fewer metrics is better than more.

Last time I wrote about business lessons learned in a soccer video.  Another lesson that was reinforced this soccer season was how a few key statistics (in business we call them metrics) can be a huge asset.

The season we finished several weeks ago was my son’s last season with me as his coach. He will be playing high school soccer next fall.  I have coached him since kindergarten and every year I looked forward to being able to do more with my players.  As the players got older, we were able to move past the fundamentals to strategy, tactics, and team play.

With their growing experience, I also recorded statistics during games to help them as players and me as their coach.  Everyone knows about goals and assists.  However, even though we had far more goals and assists than our opponents this season, we lost the championship game in part because of a trend that I saw all season long painted by two other metrics:

  1. Shots on goal (SOG) – These are shots that either scored or required a save by the opposing team to prevent a score.  Even though we took far more shots than our opponents this season, our lower SOG percentage was evidence we were not taking good shots.
  2. Restarts – I kept track of the number of corner kicks and goals kicks that we “won”, which told me if we were beating our opponent to the ball and generally controlling the ball and the game.

These two metrics showed that we were not winning the ball, controlling the ball, or getting good shots like I knew we could as a team.  In addition to analyzing why this was happening and taking corrective action to help my team improve, I saw four very positive insights that I could apply right away:

  1. Clarity – I tried to put each player in the position where they could contribute the most.  Using metrics, I could make well-informed player decisions in order to field the strongest, most competitive team possible.
  2. Confidence – Having specific metrics gave me instant credibility with my players, and I had confidence in the real-time adjustments I was making.
  3. Coaching – Armed with metrics on individual players allowed me to quickly reinforce what they were doing well and give them specific corrective instructions before sending a player back into the game.
  4. Comparisons – Even with a halftime lead, the underlying metrics sometimes told a slightly different story.  Having visibility into more than just the score showed where and how the competition was beating us.  In soccer, one play can win or lose the game so quickly, and decision-making can make a difference in the outcome.

As a soccer coach, I am a critical part of the team and I need to be well-equipped, well-informed, and ready to make the decisions necessary to put my team in a position to win.  Good metrics are necessary to do my job well so that my team can do their job well.

As a leader in business, I know you are smart enough to draw the parallels from my soccer team to your business team.  So, arm yourself with the metrics you and your players need.  Then, go get ’em coach!

Question: What are the minimum, critical metrics for your business?  You can leave a comment below.