Introducing 9-Box Calibration

9-Box Blog 

We recently announced a new feature within our popular 9-box tool: calibration. The calibration ability now even further champions the importance of conversation amongst colleagues and allows for them to happen before finalizing the 9-box placements. All of that may sound foreign or fuzzy, so let’s break it down further.

What is the 9-Box Tool?

A 9-box grid is a leadership succession tool that is used to evaluate and plot a company’s talent pool based on two factors, which most commonly are performance and potential. Typically, the horizontal axis is ‘performance’ which is often measured by performance reviews. The vertical axis is ‘potential’ which refers to an individuals’ potential to grow one or more levels in a managerial or professional capacity. Oure recommendation is to measure both performance objectives and core values (workplace behaviors) in performance reviews, thereby making the x-axis of the 9-box serve as the Total Performance Score, or the combined score of performance and values. This leaves the y-axis, or the ‘potential’ axis to be determined based on discussions amongst a group of leaders who can more subjectively assess and decide on the individual’s potential. 

Why Does Leadership Succession Matter?

Succession planning is the process of identifying and coaching potential future leaders. It has an important role to play in the overall long-term success of a company. Often it can be an area of strategic planning that gets overlooked and placed on the back burner when it comes to priorities.

We know that well-executed succession planning helps organizations make better decisions. When done well, it is a powerful tool to help assess if team members are in the right seats and help develop high potential employees for growth within the organization. Using visual tools like the 9-Box grid is a great way to assist in recognizing team members who show both great performance and potential.


The 9-box tool was designed with drag and drop capabilities that allow leaders to place an employee in the appropriate box (potential gem, star, etc.) and include notes as to why they chose that placement. Calibration means that these placements can be made prior to conversations with fellow leaders, and then leaders can update the placements if necessary after the conversations occur. The whole idea behind calibration is that 9-box placement is subjective, and therefore intentional leadership discussions are necessary to avoid as much subjectivity and potential bias as possible. 

Why Is 9-Box Not Automated?

Competitors in the marketplace attempt to automate the leadership succession process by placing employees in boxes based on highly subjective data. We believe this is dangerous and ill-informed.

Potential cannot be easily quantified. It is far too nuanced and nebulous. One leader’s experience may be vastly different from another’s with the same employee purely based on personality or circumstance. Automating the process entirely creates a large margin for error by not accounting for bias and ultimately removing the most critical component to effective leadership succession: healthy conversations. There is no amount of automation that can make a solid case for removing the human component from this process.

The 9-box tool makes leadership succession simple. Calibration makes it fair and informed. 

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