Magic of 2 x 2 matrices

Meeting #101: We were discussing about the prospects of restructuring the team in order to deal with the sudden inflow of additional work in one of our accounts. While we were assessing the potential of each team member, one of the leads, TK, raised this question:

“Why do you think A is not a great resource? Can you think of any metric(s) to evaluate his performance?”

At that moment, I just knew that A was a liability to the team, but I couldn’t really articulate to the larger audience on why he was one. Of course, the easiest solution would have been to pull out the HR form and score the usual 7-8 employee parameters on a scale of one to ten. But, TK follows the Socratic method of dialogue – he encourages critical thinking and originality by continuously questioning the underlying beliefs or presumptions of a person. Moreover, I, being a visual person, wanted to have more than a table filled in with some numbers. That’s what I have for breakfast and lunch every day.

So, I mulled over TK’s question for months and experienced 12 sleepless nights in a row before I came up with the most original framework conceived by an MBA graduate, ever.

A 2x2 matrix.

For the purpose of handling publicity with ease in future, I gave it a simple name – IC matrix.

The initiation-completion matrix helps corporations to analyze their most valuable assets, that is, their employees. To use the framework, draw a scatter plot to rank the employees on basis of their relative rate of initiation and rate of completion of the work assigned to them wherein the area of the circle would represent the difficulty of the task assigned.

Rate of initiation:

Generally correlated to the personality of the employee – An internally motivated, proactive person with decent levels of imagination and creativity would score high here. Higher levels of an organisation require ‘strategists’ who can create quality keynote decks guiding the entire team in one direction while the lower levels require ‘planners’ who can develop daily briefs to individuals which is about getting the results.

Rate of completion:

High rate of completion requires a healthy mix of personality traits mentioned earlier as well as the intelligence and the skills to complete a task. At lower levels, skills could be mostly technical. Higher levels would require communication, negotiation and mentoring skills.

The IC Matrix

1. The Idea guy: High I, Low C

Movie directors of sorts who talk about their ideas that seem innovative and revolutionary, but they are not going to follow through on them. 70% of the time goes into explaining their idea to anyone who listens, 30% into merging others’ ideas to their own, and 0% on the actual work itself. They are the Edisons who can think of a light bulb at the slightest hint of a new client problem. Remember, they just think. There is no execution of the thought.

2. Closers: Low I, High C

The house might be on fire but until you tap on their shoulder and point towards the extinguisher, they shall be mere spectators of the event. Although slow on the uptake, once a task is assigned, they give their heart and soul to complete it within the assigned deadline.

3. Stars: High I, High C

Be it routine and tedious, or tough and high-paying, they learn how to do the job, regardless of how difficult they think it might be. If they don’t know how to do something, they look for people with the right expertise and get help instead of making excuses for why they didn’t do it. They are the proactive ones who keep their bosses on their toes. A little bit of training and nurturing goes a long way in developing them into good leaders.

4. Idlers: Low I, Low C

They lack the skills or the motivation to work towards a solution. Completion of a task requires a personal baby sitter. More often than not, option A would have failed to get an optimum result eons ago and you get to know about it just three hours away from the deadline. Idlers try no other alternative because you didn’t ask them to. As a consequence, the task is inevitably offloaded to the stars who now work in a high stress environment while you try to keep the idlers occupied with an irrelevant job.


I understand. It feels as though I am over-simplifying it. But 2 x 2 matrices are good frameworks to assess complex interactions and set the context for constructive dialogue in a conference room. For instance, while restructuring multiple teams, you could use it as a guide to ensure that all stars don’t end up in one team and all idlers in another. You need a healthy mix of all 4 segments in every team to keep the organisation functional.


Bonus: Here’s another 2 x 2 grid on bosses (applies for clients as well in service based industries). 

No comments:

Post a Comment