Succession Planning

The Secret Behind the 9 Box Performance Potential Grid

Do you know where you stand in your organization’s succession plan?

“Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked…No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Most organizations use a deliberate approach like the 9 box Performance Potential Grid (great tool, for more visit Dan McCarthy).

If you have been told you are “high potential” do you know how many others are in the same “box?” in line for the same jobs?
If you don’t know, you should ask. If these programs are being executed well, those identified as having higher performance and potential will receive extra development and stretch assignments.

Being on the grid can be very helpful.

However the grid is based on perception and opinions. If you are in a good spot on the grid, great but don’t depend on it. If not, don’t freak out take action.

A grid does not define you.

Why Being on the Performance Potential Grid is Not Enough

“Blaming the system is soothing because it lets you off the hook. But when the system was broken, we wonder why you were relying on it in the first place.”
~Seth Godin

Organizations reorganize. Sponsors retire. Mergers happen. Politics change. It’s quite possible that all the people who put you on the grid yesterday, will be off doing something else tomorrow. Then, the grid is just a grid. Those opinions have moved on.

Performance Potential Grids don’t promote people, people do.

I went back and looked though the grids I had used in my organization as an HR Director years ago. Many names from the best parts of the grid have since been promoted and having strong careers. But other high performance-potential candidates had been caught up in mergers, downsizings, and other drama. Some are still unemployed. There were also people who had been once deemed “lower potential” now holding significant leadership positions.

Don’t wait for the grid

What else you can do.

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Karin – very insightful and thought provoking. My organization uses the 9 Box Grid for all levels of management. It is an extremely useful tool for me to determine my leaders and their potential. Until I read your article, it never occured to me that my direct reports do not know where they are ranked on my Grid or have even asked. Yet, they participate in the same rankings with their managers. Great take away. Thanks for always thinking outside of the “Grid” and making me a better leader.

    • Thanks so much for joining the conversation. I am always amazed how few people ask… I have experienced the same pattern. Of course, sometimes the conversations are difficult if they have a different view for where they should be. Those difficult conversations can be vital and transforming.

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