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4.1 Decision matrix analysis

Watch this short video from Mind Tools explaining the process of the decision matrix analysis.

Video 3
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Here’s a worked example:

Stanley is at university in Manchester and his parents live in Sheffield. He is trying to decide between three different offers of work experience. One is with an investment bank in London, one is with a social enterprise that works with young offenders in Brighton and the other is within the widening participation department at his university. He can’t decide between them as they all have different attractions.

He decides to do a decision matrix analysis. His first step is to populate the table below. He chooses salary, location and values as the three factors that are most important to him.

Table 3 Decision matrix analysis
Factors Salary Location Alignment with my values Totals
Importance to me (0–5) 2 2 4
Investment bank

Score = 5

Score x importance = 5 x 2 = 10

3 x 2 = 6 1 x 4 = 4 20
Social enterprise

Score = 2

Score x importance = 2 x 2 = 4

2 x 2 = 4 4 x 4 = 16 24
Widening participation

Score = 3

Score x importance = 3 x 2 = 6

5 x 2 = 10 3 x 4 = 12 28

Footnotes

Scores: 0 = absolutely unimportant and 5 = very important

When he assesses the factors, the investment banking role scores highly for salary whereas the widening participation job scores highly for location, as he could just stay living in his current student house. The social enterprise role aligns closely with his values and so scores 4.

The widening participation role has the highest overall score as it aligns well with Stanley’s values, is in a very convenient location and offers a good salary. He can now check whether that sits well with his intuitive feeling about the role. If not, he can explore his scores again and think about the issues that have been raised.

Activity 5 My decision matrix analysis

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes for this activity

Think of a decision you need to make. It could be the same as Stanley’s or it could be a different issue. For example, you might need to decide between three different job sectors or you could be focusing on whether to look for a summer internship, volunteering opportunity or part-time work.

Use the table below to design your matrix.

Enter the things you are trying to decide between down the left-hand column, and enter the factors that are important to you across the top. Extra rows have been included to accommodate more choices.

Table 4 My decision matrix analysis
Factors
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Totals
Importance to me (0–5)
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Discussion

Were you surprised by the outcome, or did it align well with your intuitive feeling about the decision? Don’t expect this tool to always give you the ‘correct’ answer but do use it to explore your decision-making processes and don’t be afraid to question what comes out of it. As the expert in the video explains, an unexpected result might be a sign that different factors are more important to you than you first thought.

Not everyone will find this activity effective but for those of you who prefer a more structured approach to decision making, it could be a helpful tool.

If you want to explore decision matrix analysis further, visit the Mind Tools website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] and look for ‘Decision Matrix Analysis’. This will be one of three articles you can access for free.