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9 Box Grid Query


For those familiar with the 9 box grid for measuring and developing talent, what would be your normal expectation of distribution after one year on a talent programme?

Is it reasonable to look for 50% of a population to appear in the top three boxes (2,3 and 6) of the grid (High Performance, High Potential; High Performance, Medium Potential; Medium Performance, High Potential). Is this consistent with your experience and sufficiently stretching for a talent population?

3 Responses

  1. Depends on your philosophy and how you measure potential

    Hi Glen

    I don’t think it’s as simplistic as that.

    If your measures are relative against a peer group and the whole peer group increases in the potential they exhibit – then positions don’t change.  This only happens when you measure against some kind of absolute. 

    If you are measuring on the basis of, "does this person do this more than or less than others" (for example delivering results in first time situations) and everyone has improved then you are raising the bar on what you determine to be high potential but people will stay in the same cells relative to each other

    However if some individuals start to exhibit an increase in potential relative to others – then their relative cell placements will change/improve relative to others.

    If you are measuring against some yardstick or absolute then this will be different and everyone one may end up top right.

    How are you measuring potential?  If you are adopting Lomingers measures of learning agility then your development program needs to have a significant on-the-job component that exposures people to new experiences where they can demonstrate the 4 agilities (or not).



  2. 9 box distribution

     The question is where were they on the grid before they started the programme? Have they increased their value or decreased their value over this time. Is the programme an enabling one or a "feed me" one?

    There are many, many variables. In real "top right" terms, less than 1% of the population on the grid will be there by the time the "promotion" is available. Expecting anything else is fiction, unless you have multiple destinations (sub organisation) that this population can be developed into.

    I would say 50% as in your description in a typical one structure organisation, is highly unlikely – try 5-15%

    again can you accomodate 50% of the opoulation into "talented" positions?

    It also depends how you have been using the grid – just for leadership roles – or for more general talent? 


    Nine Box Grids

  3. Not about positions or leadership necessarily

     Hi Glenn

    In response to Mikes comments I’d suggest that best use of the methodology is in measuring potential and performance.  This is not dependent upon what roles are available or necessarily linked to leadership.   For example top left cell placement is typically referred to as high professional which is incredibly valuable to an organization but indicates an individual who has relatively low potential or learning agility.  However their depth of knowledge, thought leadership and functional knowledge may be irreplaceable.  Ask them to lead a team and they’d fail.

    As always this goes back to, what are you measuring?



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