X-Matrix Jigsaw Puzzle


This short exercise is intended to give participants a feel for populating an X-Matrix, without the need to have a shared context, and without having to disclose confidential knowledge about their organisations. It consists of a pre-defined and generic set of “pieces” with which to populate the various X-Matrix sections, deciding which pieces should go where, and how they fit together.

The “jigsaw pieces” with which to populate the X-Matrix, are provided to bootstrap the process and speed up early discussions about what should go where. They are not intended to be used to create an X-Matrix for an actual organisation.


Form small groups of 3-5 people and give  the X-Matrix Jigsaw Pieces handout.

Ask them to create an X-Matrix on a sheet of flip-chart paper and populate it using a selection of the “pieces” on the handout. I generally allow 30 minutes, during which they should:

  • have 2-3 Aspiration, 2-3 Strategies, 3-5 Exhibits and 3-5 Tactics.
  • add their own qualifiers (e.g. increase, lower, more) and rephrase to be more specific if appropriate.
  • complete the correlations between their choices.

Some teams get stuck deciding what pieces to place where. If that happens, encourage them to at least decide on one item for each section and complete the correlations for those. The goal is to have the teams experience the discussions involving all the elements of the model.


Where there are multiple groups, give them 5-10 minutes to wander round and look at each others’ X-Matrices. Then discuss the following questions and share observations:

  • What did they see that was similar?
  • What did they see that was different?
  • What did they find surprising?

The following points usually come out:

  • There is no single right answer. Each X-Matrix is usually different with the same pieces being in different sections.
  • This makes the process more difficult than people expect as they discuss their different opinions and perspectives.
  • This leads to rich conversations as assumptions and experiences are explored, leading to stronger understanding and alignment.
  • The correlations in particular are where surprising insights are to be had.


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