A Decision Matrix evaluates and prioritizes a list of options and is a decision-making tool. The team first establishes a list of weighted criteria and then evaluates each option against those criteria. This is a variation of the L-shaped matrix.
When to use a decision matrix (and when not to)
A decision matrix can help you not only make complex decisions, but also prioritize tasks, solve problems and craft arguments to defend a decision you've already made. It is an ideal decision-making tool if you are debating between a few comparable solutions that each have multiple quantitative criteria. Steve Kurniawan, content specialist and growth strategist at Nine Peaks Media, said there is a sweet spot for the number of variables each solution should have.
"When there are only two possible solutions that don't involve too many variables, it's better to use other decision-making tools," he said. "On the other hand, if there are too many variables involved, the matrix can be very complex. In general, three to eight is the proper number [of variables] where a decision matrix is viable."
The decision matrix process is best used when you're deciding on something that does not require a sense of emotion, as it is a logical tool in nature. For example, the matrix is not great when choices are purely a matter of taste or style as it removes the layer of intuition that is sometimes an essential factor. "The [matrix] does remove some of the gut feelings that are often indicative of strong intuitions and can sometimes point to something valuable."
It's best to use a decision matrix when you need to assess a situation from a logical viewpoint and have enough comparable variables to make a weighted analysis. The matrix can be used on its own, or in tandem with other decision-making tools and techniques if you are deciding on a solution that has less distinct options. For example, if you are choosing courses of action in business strategy or deciding between scenarios for a long-term career plan, a decision matrix can be a useful component, but one is advised against relying solely on it.