Why 9 boxes aren't enough

July 9, 2019

I have seen the 9 box model used in many organizations over many years and it can be a valuable tool. But, for me, it's missing a couple of crucial components.


For those not familiar with the 9 box model, let me explain. It's a tool that uses two axes - performance and potential - to assess and plot the organizational impact of individual employees and how that impact may change over time. I believe it's limitation lies in the fact that it really only focuses on functional job performance. How well you do your job today, and, how well you may be able to do your job in the future.


What's missing are the crucial dimensions of 'energy' and 'influence'. Essentially, how positive or negative is the energy that an employee brings to the organization in the various environments in which they operate and, equally importantly, how influential is that employee. The influence component is critical because this provides insight into the potential spread of that individual's energy - for good or for bad.


Let's play this out for a moment. You could have an employee that finds themselves in the top right hand corner of the 9 box model - high performance and high potential for functional job competence. So far, so good. But what if that individual brings a high level of negative energy to the environment? The impact of working closely with that person on the broader team will be destructive. On top of that, if this individual is a high influence player, then you have the negative energy potentially impacting several corners of the organization. So, whilst we're dazzled by the individual contributions of this person, we're also being blinded to the significant damage they will be causing the organization on a daily basis.


We can't ignore this issue with our top performers if they are eroding culture and momentum. But we can provide a positive intervention. Energy management systems are deeply researched and highly effective frameworks that can be used to train individuals in the more positive management of their energetic impact. Re-imagine this high performance, high potential individual but this time with the skills to bring a more positive energy to their co-workers, teams and overall business. 9 boxes won't be enough to measure that kind of success.


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