From the Archives -> Weighted Decision Matrix

A three-in-one tool today from the blog. Simple, easy to use, and likely to be more useful than you would first think.

When faced with a multitude of possible choices, we can become overwhelmed with options. Too many variables, too many directions, too many chances to be wrong can be paralyzing. But there is hope. The weighted decision matrix is a tool that can help you cut through the noise, focus on what is important, and prioritize your options. Why prioritize and not just select? We’ll get to that.

A decision matrix is fairly straightforward. It is simply a list of the factors that make up your decision, and a list of your options. For example:

What’s for dinner?

We have five options (across the top), and four criteria (down the side) upon which to judge them. Steak and pasta are judged to be the best tasting (based on a poll of the diners). Hot Dogs and Pasta are the cheapest, and so on down the list. Each “x” is worth one point. As you can see on the bottom, the highest score of 3 for PB&J indicates a choice has been made.

This is a very simple way to make a decision based on the opinions of your stakeholders. Once you have a list of options, the team decides what are the most important factors in their decision. If all else fails, you default to the standards of speed, cost and quality. You then compare the choices to each category, assign a point where appropriate, and total up the scores. Highest score wins.

But steak doesn’t taste like pasta!

True. But the simple matrix doesn’t allow for that variation. Enter the ranked decision matrix. A bit more complex, but a bit more useful, too.

A “ranked” decision includes a comparison of the options to each other in each category. We have five options, so we have ranked each option (5 being the highest score) for each criteria. As you can see, Hot Dogs are the new indicated dinner option. We may not like the way they taste, but they are cheap, fast and available. So our decision has changed based on those criteria.

But I have plenty of time, and I don’t want to eat food I don’t like.

Ah, another caveat. Maybe Hot Dogs shouldn’t be an option at all. But if they are on the list, they must be there for a reason. So how do we indicate that the taste is more important than the speed? Our third variant is the weighted decision matrix.

In the “weight” column on the left, we’ve now indicated how important each factor is to us. Sure, we care about the cost and the time, but taste is far and away the biggest factor in our decision. We have rated is as a “5”, and the scores for each option in that category will be counted five times, as opposed to once for each other category. Our new dining choice is pasta. You’ll notice, though, it was not the highest ranking option in taste overall. While it may be the most important criteria, it is not the only criteria, and the scores indicate just that.

Have you ever used these tools?

I’m betting the HR community is familiar with the ranked decision in the guise of forced ranking for candidates or performance reviews. Without the weighting, it’s tough to get real accuracy in most cases. But we will be applying this tool in a different way, related to decisions about how to improve our practice. Keep reading as we expand on our work from the last few weeks. (And if you are behind, you can catch up by reading these posts.)

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