From time to time, organizations ask us how the 9-Box Performance Model works in tandem with WorkDove’s performance values matrix. For companies who are using the 9-Box grid for succession planning, we think the two systems complement each other by adding additional color to employee performance and potential.
Importance of Succession Planning
Succession planning is essentially 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 long term decisions. When done well, it is a powerful tool to help assess if team members are in the right seats and help groom high potential employees for future growth within the organization. The question is then, how do you find these team members and prepare them to take the organization into the future? Using visual tools like the 9-Box grid and the Performance Values Matrix is a great way to assist in recognizing team members who show great performance and potential.
The 9-Box Grid & the Performance Values Matrix
A ‘nine-box grid’ is a matrix 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 on the horizontal axis is ‘performance’ measured by performance reviews. On the vertical axis is ‘potential’ referring to an individual’s potential to grow one or more levels in a managerial or professional capacity.
Nine-box grids are actively used during the talent review process. During this process, a group of managers works together to place individuals on the X-Y axis to help to identify who are the highest potential individuals, who needs development, and who needs coaching on performance improvement.” (Bersin)
9-Box Performance Model
The 9-Box matrix was originally created in the 1970’s by the management consulting company McKinsey. They created the assessment to help GE prioritize investments they were making across all of their business units. However, the 9-Box worked slightly differently when evaluating business units. On one axis they evaluated industry attractiveness and on the other the competitive strength. (McKinsey)
Since the creation of the original McKinsey 9-Box, HR teams have taken this model and converted it to a talent management tool, shifting the two axes to instead measure performance and potential.
Performance Values Matrix
“Stars” in the upper right section of both grids are groomed for succession; transpose the lower right-hand boxes and the upper left-hand boxes from the PVM, and it’s visible to see who has potential and who needs further development. The lower left-hand corner in both grids represent employees who are in need of a “crucial conversation”.
Assessing Performance using the Performance Values Matrix
When doing a quick internet search of the 9-Box grid you will see that there are a variety of approaches for using the 9-Box method for succession planning. The way we recommend using the 9-Box is by using it in conjunction with the Performance Values Matrix.
Managers’ ratings of both the performance and behaviors of the employee are combined to form a single Total Performance Score.
This Total Performance Score then serves as the X-axis on the 9-Box. The Y-axis, or potential, is left up to a group of leaders to more subjectively assess and decide.
By using the rating of the employee’s actual performance and behaviors from their performance review, this gives a more holistic view of the employee’s overall performance.
Assessing Potential using the 9-Box Grid
After the manager has identified the performance and behaviors of their employees on the Performance Values Matrix, other managers and leaders can now use this data to help them make decisions about the potential of particular employees, especially when it comes to leadership succession planning.
Managers can export performance evaluations directly from their performance management software and then incorporate the data into the 9-Box rating.
We have created an easy to use 9-Box template to help get you started with this. (You can grab it here)
In the template, Performance and Behavior ratings are added together to calculate the Total Performance score. Performance and Behaviors are each rated on a 5 star scale, so the Total Performance Score will consist of a number from 1-10.
Managers and other leaders can then select employees and rate their leadership identified potential on the same 10 point scale. This then automatically populates the 9-Box grid once they rate the potential.
They can then filter through this data by positions, departments, locations, etc to get visibility on the employees they want to do the 9-Box exercise with.
Pros and Cons of Using a 9-Box
When determining if it makes sense for your organization to take advantage of a 9-Box grid to use for succession planning there are a few things to consider.
A 9-Box grid is very easy to use. The tool in itself is simple to use and does not require a lot of setup. Managers can easily complete the 9-Box exercise as many times as they would like. It helps to facilitate focused conversations between managers that may have never happened otherwise. It is not always top of mind for managers and leaders to have serious conversations around succession planning so completing the 9-Box exercise periodically is a good way to ensure it remains a priority.
It provides consistency in evaluation. Rather than relying on one-off conversations and different succession planning approaches, using a 9-Box makes sure succession planning data is consistent throughout the organization. Employees can be analyzed fairly and in one centralized location. Used in conjunction with the Performance Values Matrix, you can ensure that the employees direct manager’s perspective is taken into account.
Managers’ perspectives can sometimes be subjective. We are all human. We all have different backgrounds and perspectives that lead us to make decisions, especially when managing people. This will inevitably lead to subjectivity. However, the purpose of doing the 9-Box exercise is to create a model to help facilitate a conversation around succession planning. The data doesn’t have to be the end all be all, it’s a tool and it helps get the conversation started.
High performance from individuals does not always translate to success in a management position. This is less of a con and more of something to keep in the back of your head as you complete the 9-Box exercise. Not all individual contributors will have the aptitude to move into management roles. The high performing ideal team player may not make the best manager, and that is okay. In fact, they may actually prefer to be an individual contributor. Managers also need to take into account the employee’s personal vision when completing the exercise.
Example of using Both Grids Together
“We use 9-Box to identify our high performers so that we can ensure that their professional development and leadership needs are kept on pace to keep them engaged and growing within the company. We also look at our solid, steady performers to determine what they need to minimally stay at the pace they are on, or if they show potential, move them along with the proper training. Lastly, we review the people who are neither performing well nor seem to have the potential to improve. This provides us with a good visual to discuss whether these employees are simply in the wrong role, or are not a good fit with our company.
WorkDove plots each person on a grid as well, however, this comes directly from an employee’s manager. A 9-Box grid takes into account the opinions of several people. The two grids complement each other – and ideally, both grids should have similar data points for each employee. If there is a marked difference from where a specific employee is on a 9-Box vs the performance values matrix, I would do a bit of digging – is the person’s manager not seeing every aspect of their employee? Do they play favorites and give a review that may be skewed?
I think there is a need for both processes – for many organizations, 9-Box is performed once per year, but WorkDove and its matrix should be changing more frequently due to the greater frequency of review cycles.”
Interested in seeing how the Performance Values Matrix and the 9-Box work together? Download our free 9-Box template and try it for yourself today!
We also have a 9-Box feature within our system that enables leaders to have more productive leadership succession conversations.
Interested in how it works?