Creating a visual way of managing projects can help you and your team members achieve objectives and complete projects with more efficiency, clarity and focus. One method to manage projects, lean project management, can help you implement new ideas to make your project team members more efficient. One of these ideas, called an X-matrix, can help you realize your long- and short-term goals, identify connections between your team and others and create metrics for project management.
In this article, we discuss what an X-matrix is, look at components it has, explore its benefits and consider the steps you can follow to create your own.
Related: 50 Project Management Terms To Know
What is an X -matrix?
An X-matrix is a document that you can use to aid you during the lean project management process. It works as a guideline that combines several components of a project, including objectives and ideas from both outside and within the project itself. An X-matrix can help you achieve breakthrough goals over a period of three to five years. Other people who might use an X-matrix include project managers, C-level management and business owners. An X-matrix gets its name from the shape it forms when you place its major components.
Components of an X-matrix
There are four major components of an x-matrix:
- Long-term goals: These are the goals that you want to achieve in three to five years.
- Annual objectives: These are the goals that you want to achieve in the next year.
- Metrics to improve: These are the measurements you use to ensure projects are completed efficiently.
- Top-level priorities: These are the immediate changes that are necessary for the X-matrix to be effective.
Using these components, there are a few other parts that you can use to make an effective X-matrix, including:
- Teams and management that drive activities toward achieving both short and long-term goals
- The connections between the major components of the X-matrix
Benefits of using an X-matrix
Using an X-matrix can have several benefits, including:
Developing a strategic plan: Sometimes, creating an X-matrix can help you develop a strategic plan by showing you what needs your attention at that moment.
Creating engagement: An X-matrix can help show each team member at all levels how their work contributes to an entire project.
Connecting different teams and departments: X-matrices can also help project managers see how different teams interact and where their tasks may overlap, giving them avenues of communication that they might've not noticed before.
Solving problems before they occur: With an X-matrix in place, the steps of the process are clearer and may help you identify where work has slowed down, allowing you to act where needed and effectively make sure the project continues making progress.
Simplifying decision-making: Using an X-matrix can help you make sure that all decisions take your short and long-term goals into consideration. This can help you see where you can make improvements, making the decision-making process more efficient.
Setting priorities: Besides helping you develop a strategic plan, creating an X-matrix can help you know what the top priorities of your project are and how you should address each one to keep the project moving toward completion.
How to use an X-matrix
Designing an X-matrix and using it to complete projects is a task that you can learn. Below are steps you may use to create and implement an X-matrix for your next project:
1. Design strategic goals
The first step toward creating an X-matrix is to determine where you want the project to be in three to five years. After you know what direction you want the project to go, you can establish measurements and goals to ensure that you reach that outcome. If you have a small team, setting fewer long-term goals can be beneficial, as it keeps the team focused and energized throughout the project.
2. Define short and mid-term objectives
Once you know your long-term goals and a strategy to reach them, you may create short and mid-term objectives that make progress toward those goals. Creating a few shorter goals and dividing them among different teams can help the productivity stay consistent. You can then divide these goals into tasks that each team member or department completes, as this makes day-to-day responsibilities more clear. These goals are also the top priority goals to get the project started and keep it moving forward.
Related: Tips on Setting Goals
3. Create metrics for goals and progress
With all of your goals set, you can design metrics to ensure that you and your team members can finish tasks and ultimately complete the project. Metrics are a way that you can measure how successful a team is and how quickly it can complete similar tasks. For example, one team might start and finish designing software in two months, but a second team takes three. The second team uses extensive testing and produces higher quality software than the first. In these cases, both speed and quality are metrics for these teams.
Related: Helpful Metrics To Measure Success
4. Note connections between team members and departments
Sometimes after designing an X-matrix, you may notice that one team is waiting for completed tasks from another team. While this is common in project management, you can create more efficient processes by assigning other tasks to the team while they wait for work from other teams. You can also use the connections on the X-matrix to design collaboration spaces for your teams in either a physical or virtual format and determine who speaks to each other when tasks move from one team to another. For example, you can have only team leaders talk to each other.
5. Revise and update X-matrix as you meet project goals
Designing an X-matrix may take some practice, so as you meet project goals, consider revision segments of the X-matrix to reflect what is happening in real-time and manage issues as they arise. You can update the X-matrix as you complete goals to show team members what the next tasks are and how they can accomplish them. At the end of the project, you can remove the X-matrix and start a new one for a new project or update the original one to reflect your current long and short-term goals.