A matrix diagram is a generic term that is used to describe diagrams that can facilitate the analysis of the relationship or strengths between two (or more) different sets of information and a matrix diagram is particularly important when it comes to implementing service improvements.  It also has specific uses with regard to making decisions in a way that is structured and objective.

The key to understanding the matrix is appreciating the fact that it allows for systematic, methodical and objective analysis of the data it contains.  Two sets of information are presented with one set turned on its side, so that you have a vertical list of issues or information points and you cross reference this with a horizontal list of information/issues etc.

Basic Matrix Diagram

The diagram below is a matrix in its most basic form, but it is a very effective way of charting out information.  Instead of pages and pages of information being used to list the client requirements, they can simply be listed out and then easily compared, so for example it is very easy to see that client C has particular needs for delivery of items, whereas client B has no needs related to storage.

Client Requirements

Client A Client B Client C Client D
Delivery > 99.2 > 99.2 > 99.4 > 99.0
Storage < 5 < 10 < 25
Quality < 10 < 5 < 10
Consistency 20-35 20-30 10-50 15-35
Colour variations < 10 < 10 < 15 < 10
Ethical suppliers
Environmental issues
Other specific requirements

The matrix above is often referred to as an L shaped matrix because it looks like an inverted (upside down) L.  The more complex the information to be presented however, the more complex the layout of the matrix can be.

It is important however, that the information that is being analysed bears some relation to the other criteria it is set against.  In the example above, the client requirements share a common element and the vertical list is all about the main issues that clients have highlighted as being very important to them.  With no common interest or relationship it would be very hard to make a meaningful analysis of the data, which is actually the point of the matrix.

Matrix Chart and Matrix Diagram

Although sometimes the term matrix chart is used instead of a matrix diagram, there is actually no difference between them.  The matrix can either be in a chart form or a diagram; what is important is the information that it conveys, not its name.

Applications And Uses For The Matrix Chart/Diagram

One interesting aspect of the matrix chart or matrix diagram is that it actually has a multitude of uses.  The information to be analysed does not have to be physical or specific activities, it can be about concepts, ideals, even people.  Essentially as long as all the items listed have something in common, they can form part of a matrix.

So the whole concept of a matrix is actually very straightforward and easy, but in a sense it is this basic simplicity that makes it such a useful tool when it comes to making improvements in terms of quality and meeting customer’s needs.

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