What is the X-Type Matrix?

The X-Type Matrix or X-Matrix is a tool used for Strategic Planning in the Hoshin Kanri methodology.  The X-Matrix is considered useful for  communicating an annual business plan on a single page. It is revered for its ability to show multiple dimensions of relationships between Results, Strategies, Tactics, and Process Metrics. The If printed its format is designed to fit on an A3 piece of paper (landscape). It shows correlation between desired results, strategies, projects and targets to improve. The X-Type Matrix is useful when your objective is to visualize a set of cascading goals.

The X-Type Matrix is the premier format for defining, linking, and aligning a fixed set of strategic goals with their tactical projects and measures that align available resources in order for the company to achieve high-level improvement synergies and corresponding breakthroughs” – Gwen Galsworth.

Who is the X-Type Matrix for?

The X-Matrix is intended to be a tool that individual leaders can use to make decisions about priorities.  It can be used by CEOs, Strategic Planning Office, Business Unit Leaders, Region or Site General Managers, Function leaders such as VPs of Engineering or Manufacturing, Operational Excellence, or Continuous Improvement Leaders.   It can also be a tool to help leaders decide which initiatives should be resourced when short term tactical momentum may be competing with longer term strategic objectives. 

The purpose of the X-Type Matrix

The X-Matrix is intended to help visualize the relationships between desired strategic results, the strategies selected to achieve the results, the process metrics which are critical to the results and the initiatives or projects that need to be implemented to connect them all together.  Individual function or  department leaders should be able to quickly orient when thinking about strategic priorities.  It can also be a tool to help leaders decide which initiatives should be resourced when short term tactical momentum may be competing with longer term strategic objectives. 

Using the X-Type Matrix In Excel

Getting started with an X-Type Matrix is easy to do with an excel template. It will provide the basic format and is easy to edit for any single individual or small team of leaders.  Most companies that implement X-Matrix on a large scale find it difficult to manage dozens of versions of spreadsheets and have problems with permissions, versions, and having a single source of truth.  Further, because excel is SO customizable, there are few limits placed on how individual users are able to interact with the X-Type Matrix and therefore the variation that you get in your planning process explodes.

Remember, the X-matrix can teach you if you honor its limits.

Download Free X-Type Matrix (Excel Version)

Limitations of X-Type Matrix (in Excel)

The X-Matrix can be a great tool if used properly. If used improperly, it can be a sure fire way to create a kinked neck and confused looks. Being aware of the challenges and limitations of the X-Matrix can help you be better prepared to offer solutions. Limitations of using the X-Type Matrix in Excel include:

  • Its just a multi-dimensional list of things to do: If you are not careful about your implementation of the x-matrix, you might end up with essentially goals or action items surrounding all 4 sides of the x-matrix.
  • Duplication or redundant goals:  For some users, the desire to create a linked relationship on the x-matrix can lead to duplication of items.
  • Too Rigid: Most proponents of the Lean Manufacturing strive for the implementation  of Plan, Do, Check, Act Cycles.  Some X-matrix implementations are to rigid about a waterfall type project plan implementation and not focused enough on the results and the strategies to be employed.
  • Lack of individual ownership:  Because the x-matrix can show multiple levels of relationships the actual ownership can be diluted. The solution to this it to build each x-matrix from the perspective of a single leader.
  • Too many versions. When larger organizations implement hoshin planning and the x-matrix there can be an explosion of versions and files.
  • Permission control & File size. As a solution to having too many files, some companies will use one file with many tabs. This can create a problem with permissions
  • Updating Metrics: In Excel, the metrics are usually tracked on a separate tab and can create large files and problems with access, updating and permission control.
  • Updating project plans: If using excel, the standard xmatrix only allows for 1 cell description of Project plans. This is rarely effective at defining project plans. This leads to more files and more variation.
  • Lack of Strategic intent. In excel based x-matrics, strategies are limited to a single cell. This does not allow for enough of a description of a true strategic pillar.
  • Lack of Standardization. In excel based x-matrix, the format of excel allows for almost endless customization by end users. This means that the variation of implementation usually becomes a huge problem.

If your organization is struggling with these limitations of using the X-Matrix in Excel,  KPI Fire is your solution.

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“Spreadsheets are where great strategies go to die…”Cedro Toro

Who Invented the X-Type Matrix?

The original source of the X-Type Matrix has some conflicting origin stories.  Sources indicate that Japanese professor Yoji Akao (1928-2016) was the original developer of the Hoshin Kanri strategic planning methodology and likely the x-type matrix.  Shiego Shingo is also often cited as the source through which much of the Toyota Production System was shared with the world.  Gwendolyn Galsworth is one of the current leading (and my personal favorite♥ )  thought leaders and teachers of the x-matrix was first introduced to the x-matrix in 1985 by Dr. Ryuji Fukuda (head of Quality at Sumitomo) as indicated in her blog here.  Thomas Jackson has also published multiple books including Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise and Implementing a Lean Management System, and is often cited as the source of truth for how an X-Matrix “should” be used.

Hoshin Kanri vs. Balanced Scorecard

What is the difference between the The X-Matrix and the Balanced Scorecard?

The X-type Matrix is a tool of Hoshin-Kanri Strategic Planning Methodology. The Balanced Scorecard is also a tool of the methodology by Norton & Kaplan known as the Balanced Scorecard Methodology. Both tools are similar are similar in that they provide a way to identify important strategic pillars and turn them into metrics.

Is the X-Type Matrix Better than Balanced Score Card??

Hoshin-Kanri is often used where a specific result is desired.  There is no specific set of Objectives that you should start with and nothing that would ensure a “balanced” set of goals. A Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix could be used “only” to focus on a single Breakthrough objective.

Balanced Scorecard is a useful methodology to make sure that goals and metrics are set in a way that consider all the important areas.  Learn more about the balanced scorecard here.

How to use the X Matrix in Monthly Business Reviews

Should I be using the X-Type Matrix?

If you are a leader with a responsibility for Strategy, tactics, and specific process metrics then YES. You should give the x-matrix a try.   The X-Type Matrix is a tool that a single leader can use to help them quickly orient to their most important strategies, Initiatives/Projects and process metrics.  If your organization does not require it, you can still benefit by using it by yourself.

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The X-Matrix: is a thinking tool for leaders:  The X-Type Matrix..has visual structure, and therefore limits; it shows relationship; it forces sequencing that drives thinking and connectivity. The structure of this architecture is powerful. The structure is its command.  – Gwendolyn Galsworth : Visual Workplace Page 174

Who are the best instructors for learning the X-Matrix?

(If you know of a great resource for learning the x-type matrix & would like it added to this page please email  keith.norris  at kpi fire . com )

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Create your xMatrix with KPI Fire

Step by step instructions for creating an X-Type Matrix in KPI Fire 

KPI Fire is Hoshin Kanri software. KPI Fire simplifies the process of creating X-Matrics by helping you recognize the difference between Strategies, Metrics, and Projects.  With KPI Fire Identifying strategic themes is easy.  Managing the relationships between Strategies and Projects is clear.  Tracking result metrics and process metrics is simplified. KPI Fire lets you track objectives in real time and show the proof they are having an impact on your KPIs. KPI Fire makes strategy execution simple and gives your entire team the power to reach their goals.

KPI Fire applies the same principles of the X Matrix but in a more visual and collaborative tool. Visualize your strategy. With KPI Fire you can establish goals and projects throughout your company in minutes. Everyone in the organization will understand the strategic plan in minutes and can get the right context for goals and  targets. Teams can share projects, update metrics, and show progress toward their goals. Everyone from the CEO on down can see real time updates from their PC or iPhone. Its simple. It’s easy. It’s KPI Fire… and it’s a whole lot better than a spreadsheet.


Above is an example X Matrix. The X Matrix places long term goals on the first set of rows. These are linked to annual goals on the first set of columns. At this point goals can be linked to metrics or continue to drill down to lower level goals. Finally goals are linked to projects and tasks. This is the work that must be accomplished to reach the goals.

The X Matrix links goals, metrics, and projects using the intersection of rows and columns of the items that are connected. This can be confusing and complex as you add goals for various departments thus adding layers to the X Matrix . An X Matrix for a large organization can have dozens of tabs and take hours to keep updated.

KPI Fire takes the same principles of alignment in the X Matrix and simplifies the visual linkages. You can quickly see how each department or individual’s goals are aligned to higher level company goals with the click of a button.

Visualize the Linkage Between Goals, Metrics and Projects

With KPI Fire you can clearly see the metric that will be improved by the project you are working on as well as which goals and initiatives your project supports. KPI Fire takes the complexity out of the X Matrix and helps your company stay aligned to your strategy.