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, the 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 fewer 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.