Nine-Box Matrix for Succession Planning (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 5, 2022

Published May 9, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many leaders and company executives use the nine-box matrix to evaluate their staff members' performance and potential. It allows personnel to compare team members and see which individuals might profit from improvement strategies. If you're a manager who does succession planning, the nine-box matrix or a 9-box matrix can be a helpful tool for assessing the promotions of your team members. In this article, we discuss the components of a 9-box matrix, review how to use one for succession planning, discover its pros and cons, and learn some nine-box matrix tips.

What is a nine-box matrix?

A nine-box matrix, or leadership performance potential grid, is a graphical method for measuring team members' skills and determining their fitness for a promotion or career change. Managers and team leaders may use a nine-box matrix to evaluate the performance and potential of an entire team at once. Analyzing how teammates compare to one another may help leaders determine the best course of action for each team member. It may also assist leaders in better managing the entire team. For example, if a team leader sees he has three high-performing team members, one average performer, and two low performers, then they may focus their efforts on developing the high performers' leadership skills.

When to use a nine-box matrix

Here are some situations where you might use this matrix:

  • Succession planning: When conducting a talent review, it's difficult to assess whether a team member may benefit from training or may instead prefer different leadership responsibilities. A 9-box matrix can help managers determine whether individuals are to be promoted or if they would rather focus on building their skills in other areas.

  • Making hiring decisions: When you're looking for a new team member, a 9-box matrix can help you match candidates to open positions. For example, if you want to fill a leadership role that requires good teamwork skills and have an individual who is high in competence but low in coaching skills, they may be less likely to succeed.

  • Building a cohesive team: Managers who want their teams to work together effectively may use the tool to determine which members work well together or complement each other's strengths. They can then choose to make some changes, perhaps by moving a new hire from another department into a different role, for example.

  • Reviewing team progress: This is a great way to communicate with team members about where they stand in their roles, whether that means moving up, staying put, or finding another position within the company.

  • Reorganizing a team's responsibilities: When an organization restructures, they might find that some team members may better suit different roles. A 9-box matrix can help you determine who the most talented team members are and where they may excel.

What is succession planning?

The term succession planning refers to developing a plan to promote successors to leaders when they retire or depart from a firm. Managers engage in succession planning, as it may allow them to fill empty spots with internal team members. Managers may use a wide range of tools for succession planning, including the 9-box matrix. For example, a CEO might transition into a senior adviser role to mentor other leaders in the company.

Read more:

  • What Are Succession Planning Strategies? (With Tips)

  • Importance of Succession Planning (With Benefits and Tips)

  • What Is Succession Management? (With Benefits and Tips)

How to apply the nine-box matrix for succession planning

Look at the 9-box matrix and how it can help you with succession planning on your team:

1. Create your nine-box matrix

Using paper or a computer program, make a three-by-three grid with boxes for writing. In this chart, each column, or three-by-three set of boxes, represents a distinct performance statistic. Each row, or three-by-three set of boxes, represents a different level of potential. Here's how to label your columns and rows:

  • Left column: Low performance

  • Middle column: Moderate performance

  • Right column: High performance

  • Bottom row: Low potential

  • Middle row: Moderate potential

  • Top row: High potential

Related: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Make a Graph in Google Sheets

2. Assign your team members to boxes

A nine-box matrix has three boxes, each representing a row and column. Add each team member's name in the box that describes them. The box in the far right bottom corner, for example, represents High performance and low potential. In this box, you may write the name of a team member who fulfills their responsibilities well but has reached the limits of their capabilities. Do remember that you can have many names in a single box, and some boxes may remain empty depending on the size of your team.

3. Make a list

After you've added all of your team members to the matrix, you may use their ranks to develop a plan for them to help improve their performance. A team member with a position in the matrix that reads Moderate performance and high potential might be a good candidate for advancement if they enhance their abilities. You may develop a training or mentoring program for that team member to boost their performance and add them to the list of potential manager or team lead candidates in the succession plan.

4. Reassess your matrix

You can periodically reassess your team members' performance and potential to determine if they've improved. Keep in mind that this matrix is not a perfect metric for judging team members, as each person might have unique strengths. It gives leaders an effective way to work with their teams by allowing them to identify individual needs and set actionable goals.

What are the pros and cons of using a nine-box matrix for succession planning?

You might consider both the advantages and challenges of this matrix when deciding how to create a succession plan for your team. Here are some pros and cons of the nine-box matrix:

Advantages of using the nine-box matrix for succession planning

Some benefits of using the performance and potential matrix include the following:

  • It measures all team members by the same metric

  • It allows the manager to contextualize performance by comparing team members

  • It allows managers across the company to use the same form, standardizing evaluations

  • It can allow you to monitor change over time

  • It provides a structured approach to succession planning to find the perfect fit for the open position

  • It helps managers evaluate where their team members belong within the organization's hierarchy

  • It allows you to identify which team member is best suited for promotion

Disadvantages of using the nine-box matrix for succession planning

Here are some ways a 9-box matrix is a challenging tool for succession planning:

  • Managers might need a different tool to measure team members' ambition and desire for a higher role

  • Managers might have a different understanding of performance and potential than team members

  • Managers might disagree about the criteria for each box in the matrix

  • Managers' evaluations might be subjective or discriminatory against certain team members or groups


  • What Does a Staff Manager Do? (With Guide and Definition)

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Tips for using the nine-box matrix

Here are some tips to help you effectively use the nine-box matrix in your team management and succession planning:

Ensure team members understand the goals

Teaching team members what this matrix measures can help them understand the feedback you might give them in the succession planning process. It can also encourage them to focus on both performance and potential to become a stronger candidate for a promotion. To use this matrix as a training tool, discuss the grid with your team and define the specific skills that might improve their position. In subsequent reviews, track how each member of the team has moved within that graph to monitor progress.

Implement enrichment programs

While the 9-box grid can clearly show you the team members who might qualify for a promotion and those who might benefit from an improvement plan, it can also identify the hard-working members of your team who thrive in their current positions. You can help keep talent by providing enrichment n their work through a variety of different programs. You might implement a rewards system for team members who meet their goals or offer additional skills training to help them expand their abilities.

Use multiple assessment tools

Succession planning is often successful when managers use a variety of tools to determine who might be a good fit for an open position. While this matrix can provide information about the team's performance and potential, there are other components of a succession plan, like core competencies, personalities, and career paths. You might incorporate surveys or interviews to learn which members of your team are interested in a promotion or a change in position. Some managers use succession planning software, which can help them measure multiple factors and organize the data on a dashboard.

Combine the nine-box matrix with other tools

Employees typically show improvement in core competencies through their performance reviews. You might use other tools to assess team members' development, like mentoring programs. For example, if a team member wants to become an administrator, they might benefit from shadowing those in the role.

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