Decision Matrix In A Nutshell

A decision matrix is a decision-making tool that evaluates and prioritizes a list of options.

Decision matrices are useful when:

  • A list of options must be trimmed to a single choice.
  • A decision must be made based on several criteria.
  • A list of criteria has been made manageable through the process of elimination.

Understanding a decision matrix

When a business finds itself unable to make a choice, a decision matrix allows it to identify the best way forward. 

To assist in this process, the matrix evaluates a set of options against a set of criteria to visually compare potential solutions. A value is assigned to each cell in the matrix by weighting each variable based on relative importance. This allows businesses to identify the factors that matter most and then mathematically identify the most appropriate decision.

The decision matrix can also be used in task prioritization and to support or defend business cases where a decision has already been made.

Creating a decision matrix in practice

Creating a decision matrix is a relatively simple process. Here is how a business can get started.

1 – Brainstorm the criteria

Come up with a list of appropriate criteria. To get a holistic interpretation, involve as many stakeholders as possible.

2 – Refine the list

Refine the criteria list according to factors that the relevant stakeholders deem important. If a consensus cannot be reached, consider using a method like multi-voting.

3 – Assign relative weights

To each criterion, assign a relative weight based on importance. Many businesses distribute 10 points among the criteria, with those deemed more significant attracting a higher share of the total points. 

For example, consider a budget airline wanting to expand into new cities by creating a list of destination airports. Using the decision matrix, the airline assigns 6 points to airport taxes, 3 points to pre-existing competition, and 1 point to the average terminal wait time.

4 – Create the matrix

Create the matrix such that the decision alternatives occupy rows, and factors affecting the decision occupy columns.

In the case of the airline company, the decision alternatives are the airports it has identified for possible expansion.

5 – Evaluate each decision against the criteria

To measure the value of each decision alternative/factor combination, establish a rating scale

One popular option is to use a 1, 2, 3 scale where 1 = low, 2 = medium, and 3 = high.

Regardless of the scale chosen, it must be consistent across all cells in the matrix. This can be done by wording the criteria in such a way that a higher rating is more beneficial to the business. Rating scales can also be established where a higher rating is more detrimental to the business

The latter would be ideal for the budget airline company, using lower values to denote airports that would be more suited to their low-cost business model.

6 – Multiply each option’s rating by the weight

Lastly, multiply each option by the predetermined weight and then add the points together for each. 

For example, airport A may have high taxes, low competition, and medium average terminal wait time. In the decision matrix, this would result in a total score of 23 which could then be compared to the total score of other airports.

Depending on how the matrix is created, the option scoring highest may not necessarily represent the wisest decision. But it does provide valuable guidance for analysis teams on where to focus their efforts, encouraging meaningful discussion and stimulating new perspectives or solutions.

Key takeaways

  • A decision matrix allows businesses to make complex decisions by considering a range of weighted criteria.
  • Decision matrices help prioritize decision making or support decisions that have already been made. They are also useful when a business needs to make sense of large amounts of conflicting, complex, or unrelated information.
  • A decision matrix can be created in six relatively simple steps, allowing decision-makers to create matrices with customizable inputs specific to company goals or objectives.

Connected Business Matrices

The SFA matrix is a framework that helps businesses evaluate strategic options. Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes created the SFA matrix to help businesses evaluate their strategic options before committing. Evaluation of strategic opportunities is performed by considering three criteria that make up the SFA acronym: suitability, feasibility, and acceptability.
The Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix is a strategy deployment tool that helps businesses achieve goals over the short and long term. Hoshin Kanri is a method that seeks to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Strategic objectives are clearly defined and the goals of every level of the organization are aligned. With everyone moving in the same direction, process coordination and decision-making ability are strengthened.
The Kepner-Tregoe matrix was created by management consultants Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in the 1960s, developed to help businesses navigate the decisions they make daily, the Kepner-Tregoe matrix is a root cause analysis used in organizational decision making.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that helps businesses prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, the matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important to prevent urgent things (seemingly useful in the short-term) cannibalize important things (critical for long-term success).
A decision matrix is a decision-making tool that evaluates and prioritizes a list of options. Decision matrices are useful when: A list of options must be trimmed to a single choice. A decision must be made based on several criteria. A list of criteria has been made manageable through the process of elimination.
An action priority matrix is a productivity tool that helps businesses prioritize certain tasks and objectives over others. The matrix itself is represented by four quadrants on a typical cartesian graph. These quadrants are plotted against the effort required to complete a task (x-axis) and the impact (benefit) that each task brings once completed (y-axis). This matrix helps assess what projects need to be undertaken and the potential impact for each.
The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.
The GE McKinsey Matrix was developed in the 1970s after General Electric asked its consultant McKinsey to develop a portfolio management model. This matrix is a strategy tool that provides guidance on how a corporation should prioritize its investments among its business units, leading to three possible scenarios: invest, protect, harvest, and divest.
In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.
In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode).

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"