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XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix Best Practices

The XY Matrix (or the Cause & Effect Matrix) is a six sigma tool which can be used to prioritize key inputs and simultaneously rank priorities of customer outputs. The XY Matrix tool is most frequently used to support the DMAIC “measure” phase to show the relationship between X (Cause) and Y (Effect) factors. Another way of thinking about the XY Matrix is that it helps correlate between the process input variables and the customer outcomes being assessed during the root cause analysis.

More about XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix

Description of XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix

The XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix is also referred to as the Prioritization Matrix or the Correlation Matrix. No matter the name, the purpose of the tool is to mathematically compute the correlation between inputs and outputs in a rigorous way.

There are six unique steps to conducting an XY (Cause & Effect) analysis through the use of an XY Matrix. The steps to completing the XY Matrix are as follows:

    1. Identify customer requirements: Conduct customer surveys and determine what their priorities are around a specific product, service or idea.
    2. Assign priority rankings to customer outputs: Determine which customer outputs are top priorities, and which are lower priorities. Six Sigma practitioners typically use a 1-10 scale, with 1 being low priority and 10 being high priority.
    3. Identify key inputs: List all input variables which may affect each of these output priorities from customers. These become the X’s in the XY Matrix. (Example: “Good Taste” may be a key customer output for coffee drinkers, while “Bean Freshness” may be a key input closely related to that output.)
  • Determine relationship between outputs and inputs: Review the relationship between individual outputs in the Y axis and inputs on the X axis. Rank each input in the matrix using a geometric progression scale (0, 1, 3, 9) with 0 being no impact, 1 being low impact, 3 being medium impact and 9 being strong impact.
  1. Do the math: Cross multiply customer output with correlation rankings before adding up the sums of each row in the far right column.
  2. Rank & correlate: Determine the rank of each input and how closely it correlates with top priority outputs based on the highest sum total.

The completion of this XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix will help determine improvement areas and look for ways to connect business activities (inputs) more effectively with desired customer outcomes (outputs).

Praxie's Online XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix Tools & Templates

The tools managers used to enable the XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix are cause and effect analyses, process flow maps, and voice of customer insights. Get started with our XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix template. 

How to use it:

  1. Using Voice of Customer information, determine what dependent Output variables or Effects are of interest based on the decision you need to make. 
  2. Determine what predictor or independent Input variables or Causes will be tested. 
  3. List the Ys (the Effects or Output variables) above each column. You may choose to focus on a single Y variable or choose several. 
  4. Assign a numerical weight or priority to each dependent Y variable (Output or Effect) based on Voice of Customer insights. The data may come from surveys, focus groups or other observations of your customers behavior and preferences. 
  5. List the Xs, (the possible Causes or Input variables) in the rows below, with cells to show the relationship between each X and Y variable. 
  6. Assess the correlation or causal relationship between each X and each Y variable and assign a value to each cell. The degree of specificity may vary. For example, you might use checkmarks or symbols to visually communicate potential dependencies. A quantitative approach provides more detail. 
  7. Using a quantitative approach, fill in the Matrix below to rate the correlation, impact. or weight of each X variable on each Y variable. Use a scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 is the highest weight) to rate the importance or priority of each Y variable. Then rate the relationship (correlation or impact) of each X variable with each Y variable. That number will then be multiplied by the numerical importance or priority assigned to each Y variable, with the calculated sum of the products will be shown in the column to the right. Percentages will be calculated to further clarify the differences between Input variables. The calculated sums can be rank ordered to show the priority of the X variables as Causes or Inputs to be focused on. 

Unlike most traditional process checklists and problem solving models, Praxie’s online XY (Cause & Effect) Matrix tool allows any team or organization to instantly begin working with our web templates and input forms. Our digital platform goes far beyond other software tools by including progress dashboards, data integration from existing documents or other SaaS software, elegant intuitive designs, and full access on any desktop or mobile device.