A nine-box grid used to evaluate in-house counsel

At a global financial firm, the tool used to evaluate the lawyers has three rows for performance and three columns for potential, a nine-box grid. As to performance, the manager assesses a lawyer as high, medium or low; as to lawyer’s potential, a similar scale holds of high, medium or low. Thus, the star lawyer beams in the upper right cell – high performer and high promise. The at-risk lower mopes in the lower left corner – doing poorly and with little expectation of improvement (See my post of Sept. 21, 2008: annual reviews and evaluations, with 12 references.).

As I heard it, managers had to complete the nine-box grid for their reports according to certain parameters for the distribution of those assessments, being a forced ranking system. No more than five percent in the top right box might have been such a parameter (See my post of Nov. 14, 2005: forced ranking has advantages; and May 4, 2005: forced ranking is problematic Dec. 1, 2006 #3 for research findings on forced ranking; Sept. 21, 2008: line managers are unwilling to differentiate among their reports on evaluations.).

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