Used to quantitatively evaluate a set of X's (inputs) versus a set of Y's (outputs) to determine likely relationships between process inputs and process outputs. This investigation frequently minimizes the need for more expensive statistical evaluation of inputs that are unlikely to have an impact on the output. A C&E Matrix is also called a X-Y Matrix.

Answers the questions:
  • What are the quantitative relationships between inputs (causes) and outputs (effects)?
  • Which inputs are likely to have an effect on the desired process improvement?
When to Use Purpose
Pre-project Assist in project selection by focusing on areas of a process that have greater potential for improvement; showing links between process inputs and outputs.
Start of project Assist in project scoping by focusing on the areas of the process that have greatest potential for improvement.
Mid-project May be used to help identify potential inputs (X's).
Mid-project Screen inputs to identify likely vital X's (primary use).


No data requirements exist because you only use this tool to collect and organize data.


  1. Develop a list of all the X's (inputs) you want to evaluate.
  2. Develop a list of Y's (outputs) that are important to your project or activity.
  3. Enter the X's down the left side of the matrix and the Y's across the top of it.
  4. Apply a weighting factor to all the Y's. Typically, you use a 1-to-9 scale for weighting the contributions of the outputs. For example, hole location is critical so you set it to 9; however, surface finish is not as critical, so you set it to 4.
  5. Using team input, apply a score for each X's influence on each Y. Typically, you use a 1-to-9 scale for scoring the importance of the inputs.
  6. Cross-multiply your ratings and total them to get an overall value for each input (X).


  • The cause-and-effect matrix is a very flexible tool. For example, it provides the structure behind the project prioritization matrix.
  • The cause-and-effect matrix is heavily used in the initial evaluation of potential X's, especially in transactional or business projects.
  • The cause-and-effect matrix is frequently used in process-improvement projects (for example, Six Sigma and DMAIC projects) to evaluate the net impact of potential X's versus various Y's or goals in order to make a first pass at setting aside potential X's that are not likely to impact the Y's. This step eliminates the need for more expensive statistical evaluation.
    • Example 1: The X's of drill sharpness, drill-bit angle, and drill revolutions per minute (RPM) could be evaluated against the Y values of hole location, hole straightness, and hole surface finish.
    • Example 2: The X's of location of loan application, value of loan requested, day of week, and time of day could be evaluated against the Y values of cycle time, accuracy, and approval rate.
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