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Mastering the 9 Box Grid: An In-Depth Guide

Mastering the 9 Box Grid_ An In-Depth Guide
Table of Contents

It is essential for the ever-changing field of human resources to make use of different talent management tools, and among them 9 Box Grid has always been a simple yet effective one. The 9 Box Grid, which emerged from joint efforts between McKinsey & Company and General Electric in the 1970s, is now widely used to classify employees into nine performance-performance groupings. It features an employee’s current impact on the organisation and how they can continue to grow as its two axes; hence it helps inform strategic talent development and succession planning choices. For organisations that want to invest in their workers’ competences while envisioning what tomorrow holds, knowing how to distinguish and foster potential becomes a precious asset.

Talent management involves a number of things that range from spotting future leaders to finding areas of improvement using the 9 Box Grid template . It can be easily incorporated into various HR processes like performance management, talent mapping, and succession planning as well as being an effective tool for talent management. This article will serve as an all-inclusive guideline on the use of 9 Box Grid. It will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of this approach, provide step by step implementation procedure and also suggest ways in which talent can be developed based on structures within the grid. By making sure that such application is transparent and organised, human resource professionals are able to prepare a company’s workforce that understands its vision and goals through effective use of 9 box assessment which would finally contribute towards an organisation’s success.

What is a 9 Box Grid?

The 9 box grid is a matrix tool that classifies employees based on their performance and potential. Performance refers to an employee’s current contribution to the organisation, while potential pertains to the employee’s capacity to take on more significant roles in the future. The grid consists of nine boxes, arranged in a 3×3 structure, with performance and potential as the x-axis and y-axis, respectively.

The 9 box grid presents a holistic view of an organisation’s talent pool, enabling leaders to identify high-potential employees, understand strengths and weaknesses, and plan for future leadership succession. It is especially useful in providing a visual representation of an individual’s current performance against their future potential, facilitating strategic decision-making in talent management.

Advantages of the 9 Box Grid

The 9 box grid offers several benefits to organisations. Some of the key advantages include:

Simplicity and Clarity

The 9 box grid is straightforward and easy to understand. It provides a visual representation of an employee’s performance and potential, which simplifies talent management decisions.

Identification of Valuable Talent

The 9 box grid helps identify high-performing employees with great potential, enabling organisations to strategically invest resources in their development and retention. It also highlights employees who require coaching or performance improvement interventions.

Holistic Approach to Talent Evaluation

The 9 box grid offers a comprehensive method for assessing talent by considering both current performance and future potential. This dual perspective provides a more rounded understanding of an individual’s capabilities and prospects within the organisation.


The 9 box grid is versatile and can be used for various talent management activities, including performance management, talent development, and succession planning.


Constructing a 9 Box Grid

Creating a 9 box grid involves three steps:

  • Evaluate Performance: Performance is typically measured through performance appraisals or reviews. The performance axis of the grid often consists of three categories: low, moderate, and high performance.
  • Evaluate Potential: The potential axis is unique to each organisation. Some teams identify leadership competencies that every potential leader must demonstrate. Other teams may focus on an employee’s willingness to take on more significant roles or their proven ability to excel when given more responsibilities.
  • Plot the Grid: After evaluating performance and potential, the next step is to plot these dimensions on the grid. Each employee is placed in one of the nine boxes based on their performance and potential scores.

Exploring the 9 Box Grid

The 9 box grid is divided into nine boxes, each representing a unique combination of performance and potential. The grid’s structure allows for the classification of employees into different categories:

  • High Performers, High Potential (Stars): These employees exceed performance expectations and have great potential for future growth. They are often considered for leadership roles and succession planning.
  • High Performers, Moderate Potential (Solid Professionals): These employees consistently meet performance expectations but have limited potential for growth. They are valuable team members who often serve as the backbone of the organisation.
  • High Performers, Low Potential (Seasoned Professionals): These employees exceed performance expectations but have limited growth potential. They are often specialists in their field and provide stable contributions to the organisation.
  • Moderate Performers, High Potential (Future Stars): These employees meet performance expectations and have high growth potential. With the right development and coaching, they can become future leaders.
  • Moderate Performers, Moderate Potential (Core Professionals): These employees meet performance expectations and have moderate growth potential. They are reliable contributors to the team.
  • Moderate Performers, Low Potential (Role Players): These employees meet performance expectations but have limited growth potential. They are often in roles that fit their skills and capabilities well.
  • Low Performers, High Potential (Enigmas): These employees have high growth potential but currently underperform. They may require coaching or role changes to improve their performance.
  • Low Performers, Moderate Potential (Underperformers): These employees have moderate growth potential but are currently underperforming. They may benefit from performance improvement plans or coaching.
  • Low Performers, Low Potential (Misaligned): These employees underperform and have limited growth potential. They may require performance improvement plans or may not be a good fit for the organisation.


Implementing the 9 Box Grid in Talent Management

Proper implementation of the 9 box grid can augment talent management efforts. Here are some strategies for effective implementation:

  • Organise a talent review process involving a group of managers or leaders. This collective decision-making process can help reduce bias and increase visibility.
  • Use objective performance data to place employees on the performance axis. This data can be derived from performance appraisals or reviews.
  • Define clear criteria for assessing potential. These criteria should align with the organisation’s leadership competencies and skills.
  • Conduct regular reviews and update the 9 box grid accordingly. This will allow for timely adjustments and interventions.
  • Use the 9 box grid as a starting point for career development discussions with employees. It can also be used to identify training needs and development opportunities.

9 Box Grid for Succession Planning

The 9 box grid is an invaluable tool for succession planning. It helps organisations identify potential successors, assess the risk and impact of losing current talent, and develop strategies to improve, retain, and leverage existing talent. It facilitates discussions about bench strength and the identification of potential successors at different levels within the organisation. Additionally, it aids in determining the optimal target market for high-potential development prospects.

Criticism of the 9 Box Grid

Despite its benefits, the 9 box grid has been criticised for its potential to oversimplify complex human potential and performance dynamics. It can also be subjective, as different managers may have different interpretations of performance and potential. Additionally, it may not account for external factors that can influence an employee’s performance or potential.


Throughout this insightful exploration into the 9 Box Grid, we’ve scrutinised its function as a pivotal instrument in nurturing and evaluating talent within the corporate structure. The methodical approach and strategic integration of this model underscore its potential to align employee progression with organisational goals. By consistently applying this tool, Datalligence.AI offers a solution-oriented perspective to talent management, ensuring that personalised development plans align with both individual aspirations and the broader vision of your company.

Acknowledging the intricate dance of potential and performance, it becomes clear that the success of talent management hinges on informed assessments and dynamic development strategies. The 9 Box Grid is more than a tool—it is a roadmap to harnessing the full capacity of a workforce poised to meet the future head-on. For a deeper dive into how this can be operationalized within your organisation, discover the transformative potential of our solutions at Datalligence.AI, where we bring the power of strategic talent management to the forefront of your business journey.

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