Using a Decision Analysis Matrix

Faced with a hard business or personal decision? A decision analysis matrix can help.

By this time of the day, you have already made hundreds, perhaps thousands of decisions. Everything from what socks to wear, what to have for breakfast to what to work on first. With all this practice, you’d think we would be masters of decision making. Yet, in my experience, decision making its one of the BIGGEST blocks to productivity – often stopping our work flow dead in its tracks.

If we are given a specific task to do, we can usually accomplish it. But when we are faced with having to make decisions, we often freeze. We dither, research, and end up with “analysis paralysis.” Eventually we get stuck and move on to other things leaving important decisions unmade until they become urgent and come back to haunt us.

Creating a decision analysis matrix gets you unstuck by giving you a process to follow to help guide you through how to make your decision.

A decision matrix makes options easier to assess by helping you assign numbers to each of the factors affecting your choice.

Here is an example of a simple decision matrix I set up in an excel spreadsheet. Click on the table to enlarge it.

decision analysis matrix

I simply put 3 or more options in the columns and then 5 or more factors that I want to apply to each option in the rows below. For example, if you were looking to decide between various mobile phones, you could include factors like:

  • Processor speed
  • Carrier availability
  • Memory
  • Warranty
  • Price
  • Customer reviews
  • Accessories included

Then you would give each cell phone a rating in each category. I suggest rating them from 0-5 with 5 as the best. So the best price might be rated a 5. A close second might be 4 or 4.5 out of 5. A overly high price might be given 0-2 on the rating.

Here is an example decision matrix I put together looking at three different information capture and management systems, The Brain, Microsoft OneNote and Evernote. Click on the table to enlarge it.

info capture software decision matrix analysys example

When comparing the softwares, The Brain eventually lost out primarily because it could not be used on mobile devices at that time – a critical factor for me. Eventually OneNote became the winner because of its better visual interface, lower price and better support.

As you can see, using a decision matrix gives you a NUMERICAL basis for your decisions. When you assign a number to all the factors, the best decision becomes clearer.

Factor Weight with the Decision Analysis Matrix #

If you have a factor that you want to give more weight to, rate it out of 10 instead of 5. This will double its influence on the totals. For example, when looking at task management software I doubled the value of the mobile app availability because it is critical that I be able to see my tasks on my smart phone.

Intuition and the Decision Matrix #

Trust your intuition? Me too. I often add my intuition about each option as a factor row in my decision matrices.

Want to try this for yourself? Here is a copy of the decision analysis matrix spreadsheet you can copy for yourself. Want me to guide you through some important decisions using a decision analysis matrix or other tools? Just contact me.

Here’s wishing you “better decisions for a better life!”

– Garland Coulson, “Captain Time”

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