Decision Matrix To Help With Difficult Choices

When you need to make a difficult decision, how do you do it? Do you use your head or your heart? Based on fact or based on gut feel? Or a combination of both. Over the years, an old friend and I developed a method that works to logically pick between hard choices. We called it a “Decision Matrix”. It works well enough that it has advised me on decisions for many years. And not small decisions. Important steps like what job to take and whether or not to buy a certain house or car.

A Simple Spreadsheet

Here is how it works. A spreadsheet plots choices in the columns and ranked/weighted criteria in the rows. Take a look at the image below and I’ll explain it in more detail using a car purchase as an example. Note that the example image has dummy numbers in columns B, D, and F.

Step 1: Replace the “Choice 1” and “Choice 2” in row 1 with your choices. Add more choices columns as necessary. Example choices would be different makes and models of cars.

Step 2: Replace the Criteria in column A with your criteria. Again, add or remove criteria rows as necessary. If you add more, make sure the Total line sums include them. Example criteria would be fuel economy, exterior color, interior color, price, etc.

Step 3: Place a Rank on each criteria to set how important that criteria is. These Ranks are on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being least important and 10 being most important. Ranks can be the same for different criteria.

Step 4: For each choice, determine a score for that criteria and choice to show how well the choice meets the criteria. Scores are on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. Scores can be the same for different criteria.

Step 5: Look at the “Total Calculated” for each choice and the highest number is your best choice.

Completed Example

Here is a picture of a completed example car decision matrix.

Example Decision Tree

Notice that the example is for specific cars. You could use a matrix to narrow down different models, but the criteria would be fewer. The more criteria the better. In this example, all 3 cars score highly across the board. However, the Rav4 stands out as the winner over the CRV because the Rav4 total score of 7.7778 is higher than the CRV total score of 7.4000. Again, the “Rank/Weight” in column B is the criteria importance and the “Score” is how each choice fares for each criteria regardless of importance.

The Bottom Line
I hope this helps you make some difficult decisions. Here is a link to the starting spreadsheet: Decision Matrix

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