The Holy Grail Of Performance Management? I Think It’s Performance vs. Potential

Kris Dunn Kris Dunn, Labor, Performance, Talent Strategy

The chart pictured above is called the Performance vs. Potential Grid.  I think it’s the Holy Grail of Performance Management.

I know—Holy Grail is a strong word, but I think it fits when it comes to the Performance vs. Potential matrix, also known by some as the 9-Box Grid. Notice that I’m not talking about performance review formats, rating scales, approaches to competencies, scorecards, metrics or any of the other features that bog us down when it comes to truly measuring performance in your organization.

Instead, the 9-Box Grid focuses on a picture of your organization that your performance system should create. This picture is what you want out of your performance system, because with this, instead of talking about annual merit increases, late reviews or tags like “Meets Expectations,” the Performance vs. Potential Grid allows you to look at talent in a multi-dimensional way.

The other stuff can wait. Agree on what the end looks like and sell the value of this to your Senior Team. Here’s a hint, it won’t be too hard. They’ll view the end point as strategic, and as a result—view you as strategic as well.

They’ve been waiting for you to make it easy. They’ve been waiting for a picture that tells the story. Take this and bring that to them.

Committing to the Performance vs. Potential Grid (we’ll call the system PxP from here on out) makes you strategic in the following ways:

1. The final output of the PxP system is a single picture of where everyone in the company is related to their performance in their job and their potential across a set of factors you deem as core to your company (potential factors that are the same for most, if not every, employee in your company). It creates a simple, yet powerful view of the talent present in your workforce.

2. The PxP system allows you to segment all talent in your company into 9 unique “tags,” which enables greater functionality/separation related to succession and high-potential programs, and can also help you create custom strategies related to merit compensation, employee development and other critical areas.

3. There’s no better way to pressure managers who are too soft or too hard to reevaluate their approach to performance than by showing a picture of their team/department/division’s distribution across the PXP grid and comparing it to the overall company distribution. How does John’s team look across this grid? Let’s drill in and take a look.

4. The PxP system creates a unique focus on employee development. You’ve got 55% of your employees in and around the middle box of the PxP grid. What’s it going to take to move them up and to the right? No system begs that question more than the PxP overview. The development lens is driven by the illustration of the workforce that the PxP provides.

Why would you change your current employee review system to Performance vs. Potential?

One word: Leverage. You make the change to get something strategic out of it, to view the workforce in a way that your current system can’t. You’re focused on forms and a rating scale. A system dedicated to the PxP grid can and will have those as well, but they don’t rule the day. Making the change to the PxP system gives you potential leverage to have real conversations about performance and development, by focusing on the picture.

And isn’t that what you’ve said you always wanted?

FOT Note: This Rant is brought to you by the good folks at Halogen Software, who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our performance management track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). 

Bonus – If you’re interested in learning more about how the 9-Box/Performance vs. Potential relates to your approach to performance management, sign up for this webinar coming later this month.  We haven’t started promoting it yet, but you’re the first to know.

Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He's also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.