The Nine Box Grid provides a map for navigating an organization’s strategic intent. It is normally presented in terms of manpower or leadership potential against measurable performance. As a leadership selection and development tool it helps decision makers (1) think ahead in terms of talent development and management succession, and (2) prepare for change by having the required resources at the ready.
The potential axis, is typically divided into low, medium, and high, and is best used with specific criteria. For example, as a personnel tool, potential can be used to assess potential for leadership, or potential for sales, or potential for any variety of workforce groupings. “Potential” labels can even be changed to “Well Placed” for “Low,” Expandable” for “Medium,” and “High Potential” for “High,” giving managers the ability to graciously put employees in what would normally be a low potential column for one role, when they were, in fact very good employees or high potentials in another.
The performance axis is typically divided into poor, good, and outstanding, but can also be used to measure such things as culture fit or skills fit. The uses are almost limitless and can be used to bring the focus of management decisions regarding everything from hiring or selection, to development and resource allocation onto whatever are the two most important factors needed for effective decision making.
I have used matrix decision making tools, like the Nine Box Grid, for strategic planning, hiring, leader and emerging leader selection, project selection, program management, to mention a few. And while not all of the tools have had three options on each axis—as in the Nine Box Grid—each one has provided the decision making team with a simple way to facilitated dialogue, calibrate expectations, provide multiple perspectives, facilitate a shared sense of ownership, and focus limited resources.
The Nine Box Grid helps answers the question, “Is this (whatever “this” is) a good fit in terms of performance (how well it has done in the past) and potential (how well we think it will live up to the desired future)?