9 Box Performance/Potential Matrix

Source: Great Leadership: Nine Leadership Development Strategies For a Performance & Potential Matrix

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  1. I used the Nine Box for performance assessment for almost ten years in a large corporation. As a concept, it’s straightforward and useful for looking at large groups of talent in terms of organizational needs.

    Like any tool, the devil is in the details. In the company of which I’m familiar, this tool became a nightmare when a few on the senior team decided to “allocate” spots to each category in a misguided attempt to force rank. As a result, people were moved from category to category just because we were one person “over” the allocation. You might imagine the demoralization of an employee being told they were moved because “someone” had to be moved and they were the newest in role, etc. Not good. Not good at all.

    So, the Nine Box as a thinking tool is fine. In my opinion, it’s best used with larger groups of more experienced or senior people, so the assessors have a track record and a fair sample for comparison. And by all means, skip its use for force ranking.

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    • Susan, thank you. Thoughtful comments. I’m with you on the negative impacts of showing anyone where they are on a grid or telling them they moved up or down on the grid. If they see they moved down, it’s demoralizing. If they moved up, they expect to keep moving up during each review period. Best to speak to performance strengths and development areas and what it takes to move to the next level and offer up specific examples to support. As to Forced Rankings, my experience has been that taking anything to an extreme is problematic. Yet, most managers tend to over-rate their employees or are top-heavy with employees who are rated Excellent/Exceptional because the conversations are much easier than telling someone that they are Meeting Expectations. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Dave

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