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How To Use a Decision Matrix

We are constantly tasked with making decisions. Whether it’s to have a difficult conversation at work or learn a new skill to advance in our field, making decisions is an important part of our personal and work lives.

But what happens when the stakes are higher? What if you have two job offers on the table and don’t know which one to take? Or your team has been tasked with deciding on a new wireless carrier for your agency?

Using a decision matrix can help you select the best option.

It worked for me

I recently had to make a difficult career decision. Completing a decision matrix forced me to put my emotions aside and focus on the criteria that meant the most to me. I used the decision matrix template and guidance on the Mind Tools site to help me.

In the end, one choice was clearly the “winner,” or the choice that best matched the criteria that were important to me. The matrix isn’t a magic solution that makes the decision for you, but rather offers a way for you to place numerical values on each criterion, or factor, that matters most and then rank your options based on how closely they match each one.

Let’s look at how this works.

Prospective candidate Jill Jones is deciding between three job offers. Here’s how she can use a decision matrix to help select the best option.

Step 1: List three to five of your most critical decision factors or criteria. Jill’s criteria are salary, proximity to home, telework option and promotion potential.

These will be listed as the columns of her matrix.

Step 2: List your options. Jill is deciding between Company ABC, Company XYZ and Company 123.

These will be listed as the rows of her matrix.

Step 3: Assign a weight, or level of importance, to each factor. Experts recommend using a range from 1 to 5. For example, salary is very important to Jill, so she gives it a 5, while proximity to home is less important, so she assigns it a 3.

Step 4: Rank how close each option comes to matching each factor. Again, you can use 1 to 5. Jill, for example, wants to give Company ABC a 3 for its promotion potential, but a 4 for Company XYZ, which offers a higher chance of promotion.

Step 5: Multiply the weight given to each factor by the rank given to each option.

Here’s what Jill’s completed matrix looks like:

Options Salary

(the higher the better)

(5)

Proximity to home

(the closer the better)

(3)

 

Telework option

(4)

Promotion potential

(5)

Total
Company ABC 4×5=20 4×3=12 4×4=16 3×5=15 63
Company XYZ 3×5=15 5×3=15 5×4=20 4×5=20 70
Company

123

2×5=10 5×3=15 1×4=4 5×5=25 54

 

Analysis

Company XYZ has a higher total, meaning it more closely matches the criteria Jill values the most. While Company ABC offers a slightly better salary than XYZ, XYZ is closer to home, has a better telework option and a more favorable promotion potential. Company 123 scored the highest in terms of promotion potential and proximity to Jill’s home, but scored the lowest in salary and telework option, two of Jill’s highest-rated factors.

The Verdict: Company XYZ may be the better choice for Jill.

Wanna try it yourself?

In addition to the Mind Tools site, there are a number of decision matrix templates to choose from depending on your needs.

Project managers may find the decision matrix guidance offered on the Critical to Success site helpful, while those who need a more complex weighted decision matrix may like the Expert Program Management site.

You can do it

Deciding between two or more things is not going to be easy, and there will be a choice you’re leaning more toward. A decision matrix can lessen the anxiety or bias you have by forcing you to prioritize what’s most important to you. As you undoubtedly think about the what-ifs regardless of your decision, you can at least be assured you made your decision based on a non-emotional rating scale.

Jennifer Singleton is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Profile Photo Jennifer Singleton

Thanks for the feedback, Blake. When I was faced with a tough decision, I starting searching for an impartial way to figure it out and learned about the decision matrix. I hope it works for you, and anyone else who wants to try it out.