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February 11, 2013Clients often come to Catalyst concerned about a “stuck point,” a “fall-off,” or a gap between women and men at a particular level within their companies. They describe a feeling of “drowning in data” and ask questions like, “How can I figure out what data matters?” or “How do I make real progress?”   

As with any kind of change, the first step is to look within. What’s revealed can be powerful.

Our Census shows that progress remains glacial for many organizations, yet we know that organizations large and small are ready to accelerate progress now. At Catalyst, we use the term “Vital Signs” as shorthand for an approach that uncovers the root causes of gaps and “stuck points” and moves an organization in the direction of meaningful change. Much like a temperature check, this vital diagnostic tool is used to figure out what should be done next in your organization.

Looking inside means going beyond simple quantitative analysis—we’re concerned with people, not numbers, and leadership gaps often reflect more complicated social problems. Research methods alone won’t get you there—it’s the lens you apply overall that matters. In order to create lasting change, it’s critical to take into account your organization’s unique culture and leadership profile, unearth the insights that cut through the numbers to the core of what’s really going on, and test the assumptions that are impeding progress. 

Vital Signs is about drilling deep into your data and metrics with an eye towards unique aspects of your workforce. Who at your company is languishing in his or her role? Who’s a “slate sitter” and who’s scurrying up the career ladder? Vital Signs means asking who’s getting the critical assignments or “hot jobs” and requiring leaders to ask themselves critical questions, such as, “Who am I investing my personal time, energy, and influence in? Who am I watching and grooming, formally and informally, for future leadership? Why them?”

These questions can lead to a seismic shift by deepening your understanding of something—like your organization’s culture—that once seemed so obvious. Armed with the right attitude and the right tools, leaders who apply Vital Signs within their organizations can create real and lasting change.

Tell us: Are you mired in data? Do you understand what it is telling you? Could you benefit from a different, deeper perspective that could lead you toward real progress?