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What Is A Decision Matrix And How To Create One

We all make decisions daily, ranging from the seemingly trivial to those that shape our lives. But how can we ensure we’re making the right ones? Enter the decision matrix – an invaluable tool for evaluating options and arriving at optimal choices.

From professional environments to everyday life, decision matrices are especially beneficial when dealing with complex decisions or multiple stakeholders. For example, if you’re in charge of a hiring process in your company, you can use this tool to identify the ideal candidate. 

In this article, we’ll provide an exhaustive overview of decision matrices – delving into their types and weights as well as the benefits, limitations, and best practices associated with them. We’ll also guide you on harnessing software applications to optimize decision-making. 

Throughout this article, we’ll discuss: 

Join us as we explore this powerful tool armed with practical examples!

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What Is A Decision Matrix?

A decision matrix, often referred to as the Pugh method, named after British product designer and professor Stuart Pugh, presents a systematic process to evaluate a range of options for a decision. It’s designed to facilitate unbiased, multi-faceted analysis, thereby guiding you toward the best possible choice.

A decision matrix, essentially, is a table with two dimensions: criteria and alternatives. The criteria are the factors you employ to assess the alternatives, and the alternatives represent the varied options available to you.

Practical Example of a Decision Matrix

To illustrate, imagine you’re in the market for a new car. Your criteria could be factors such as fuel efficiency, price, and safety, while your alternatives would consist of various makes and models of vehicles.

In the decision matrix, you would list your criteria along the left-hand side and your alternatives across the top. Each alternative would then be scored against each criterion on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 represents the best possible score.

Interpreting a Decision Matrix

Once all alternatives are scored, the decision matrix provides a clear overview, allowing you to swiftly identify the option with the highest total score. This scoring system ensures that the decision-making process remains impartial, considers multiple factors, and leads to the selection of the most suitable choice.

This efficient yet powerful tool simplifies complex decision-making processes, making it an invaluable asset for personal and professional use.

The Basics of a Decision Matrix Template

A decision matrix template is a valuable blueprint to guide you through your decision-making process. It’s a simple, structured format that allows for a comprehensive comparison of various options based on multiple predefined criteria.

The key elements of decision matrix analysis include: 

  1. Criteria: These are the essential factors or characteristics against which you’ll evaluate your options. They should be selected based on the specific requirements of your decision-making process and should ideally encompass all aspects that matter. For instance, if you’re purchasing a new laptop, your criteria might include performance, cost, durability, and brand reputation.
  2. Alternatives or options: These are the different possibilities you’re considering for your decision. The alternatives in the laptop purchasing example would be the different laptop models from various brands that meet your basic requirements.
  3. Scores: For each alternative, you assign a score against each criterion based on how well it meets that particular factor. The scoring system can be numerical (e.g., 1-10) or descriptive (e.g., poor, average, good, excellent). It’s important to remain consistent with the scoring system you choose.
  4. Weighting: This is an optional but highly beneficial aspect of a decision matrix template. If certain criteria are more important to you than others, you can assign weights to each criterion to reflect their importance. For instance, if performance is twice as important as cost in your laptop purchase decision, you might assign a weight of 2 to performance and 1 to cost.
  5. Weighted score: This is the product of the raw score and the weight for each criterion. It gives more influence to the criteria that matter most to you.
  6. Total Score: This is the sum of each alternative’s weighted scores. The alternative with the highest total score represents your best choice.

A Closer Look at the Eisenhower Decision Matrix

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Box or the Eisenhower Method, is a powerful time management tool that helps prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance. This model is attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, who was known for his exceptional productivity and efficiency.

Understanding the Eisenhower Decision Matrix

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix consists of a 2×2 grid, creating four quadrants to categorize tasks.

  1. Quadrant I (Urgent and Important): Tasks that are both urgent and important fall in this quadrant. They require immediate attention and are often associated with critical project work, pressing problems, or looming deadlines.
  2. Quadrant II (Not Urgent but Important): This quadrant includes important tasks that can be done after a period of time. These tasks are crucial for long-term success and often include planning, relationship building, and personal development.
  3. Quadrant III (Urgent but Not Important): Tasks in this quadrant are urgent but not necessarily essential. They often involve interruptions or demands from others that contribute little to your overall goals.
  4. Quadrant IV (Neither Urgent Nor Important): This quadrant includes tasks that are neither urgent nor important. They offer little value and can be seen as time-wasters. They may consist of trivial tasks or activities done in excess, like unnecessary browsing on the internet.

Applying the Eisenhower Decision Matrix

When using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, tasks are assigned to the appropriate quadrant based on their urgency and importance:

  • Quadrant I tasks should be done immediately.
  • Quadrant II tasks should be scheduled for later.
  • Quadrant III tasks should be delegated when possible.
  • Quadrant IV tasks should be eliminated or minimized.

The true power of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix lies in its simplicity. By categorizing tasks based on urgency and importance, you can prioritize more effectively, manage time efficiently, and increase overall productivity. This matrix is particularly beneficial in professional settings, allowing individuals and teams to distinguish between important tasks and distractions.

Understanding the Decision Making Matrix CPI

The Decision Making Matrix, often referred to as the Cost-Performance-Index (CPI) in project management, is a strategic tool used to evaluate projects or investments based on their cost-effectiveness and performance potential. 

Essentially, it provides a quantifiable method to weigh the cost of an investment against its expected performance or returns.

The CPI decision matrix is a two-dimensional model, with cost plotted on one axis and performance on the other. Each potential investment or project is represented as a point on this graph. The positioning of these points helps stakeholders identify the options that offer the most significant performance benefits for the lowest cost. 

In this way, the CPI decision matrix guides strategic decision-making, promoting efficient use of resources and facilitating selecting the most cost-effective, high-performing projects or investments.

Why Use A Decision Matrix?

When you organize many moving parts, such as a large workforce or multiple projects with dependencies, you may find yourself overwhelmed with all of the potential decision options. In these cases, a decision matrix can be a valuable tool to help you make the best choices for your situation.

Normal decision-making methods are not always sufficient for high-stakes, complex decisions. A decision matrix is a more analytical way of looking at a problem and can be used to systematically weigh all the pros and cons of each potential decision option.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using a decision matrix:


It’s easy to fall back on personal biases or opinions when making decisions, but this skews your analysis and can lead to poorer choices. A decision matrix helps to remove personal bias from the equation by providing a framework for objectively evaluating each option.

For instance, you may need to decide who from your company to let go during tough economic times. Using a decision matrix can help you objectively compare each employee’s skills and experience against the company’s needs.


A decision matrix can also help clarify complex decisions by organizing all relevant information in one place. This makes it easier to see potential patterns and relationships between different factors.

For example, suppose you are considering expanding your business into a new market. In that case, you can use a decision matrix to list all the potential costs and benefits of doing so. This will help you see more clearly which factors are most important to you when deciding.


A well-designed decision matrix can help you to make better decisions in a shorter amount of time because it essentially forces you to evaluate all of your options systematically.

This is especially important when facing a time crunch or when many stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. A decision matrix can help ensure that everyone has a voice and that all potential options are considered before making a decision.

Alongside these benefits, there are a few additional reasons to use a decision matrix over other decision-making methods:

  • They are simple to create and use.
  • They can be used for both complex and simple decisions.
  • They can be adapted to any situation, whether it’s making a business decision or choosing a new car.
  • Most matrices include a “no-brainer” option, which can help to speed up the decision-making process.

In all, decision matrices provide a helpful framework for objectively evaluating all the potential options when making a decision. They can be used in a variety of situations by individuals or groups and can help to increase efficiency and clarity when making decisions.

How To Create A Decision Matrix?

Fortunately, decision matrices are quite easy to create once you understand their utility. Let’s run through some key points to remember before constructing one for your next big decision:

  • First, note that decision matrices are designed to serve as a more efficient way of organizing and analyzing all your options. This way, you can more easily spot patterns and correlations that might have otherwise been hidden in a sprawling list of pros and cons.
  • A decision matrix uses value ratings to compare and contrast each option. Generally, you’ll want to rate each option on a scale of 1–10, with 1 being the least desirable and ten being the most desirable.
  • You will know which option is the best by finding the one with the highest rating.
  • Sometimes, you’ll have to decide even if you don’t have all the necessary information. In these cases, you can use a “best guess” rating for options still under consideration. Just be sure to update your matrix as more information becomes available.

Now that we know how to create a decision matrix, let’s walk through step-by-step instructions for using one.

1. Define The Problem You’re Trying to Solve

Before anything else, you need to clearly state the problem you’re trying to solve. This will help keep your decision matrix focused and ensure all potential solutions are considered.

For instance: are you trying to choose a new product to offer your customers? Are you trying to decide which candidate to hire for an important position? Are you considering a move to a new city?

Regardless of the problem, be sure to write it down so you can refer back to it later.

2. List All Potential Solutions

Now that you know the problem, it’s time to brainstorm all potential solutions. You might like to draw up a mind map or simply list all the options in a table.

For example, some potential solutions to make more sales could be to:

  • Offer a new type of product
  • Expand your product line
  • Lower prices on current products
  • Increase marketing for current products

Again, the key is to brainstorm as many potential solutions as possible. Don’t worry about whether they are good or bad ideas; just get them down on paper.

3. Narrow Down to Your Best Options

Now you’ve got a list of options. Great! To make your matrix as efficient as possible, however, you’ll want to narrow it down to your best options.

This can be done in various ways, but a good rule of thumb is to focus on the options that have the most impact. In other words, the options that will have the biggest positive or negative result on your goal should be given priority.

For our sales example, this could mean focusing on the options that have the potential to result in the biggest increase or decrease in sales. For our workforce example, it might mean narrowing down to the options that will have the biggest impact on employee satisfaction or productivity.

4. List Your Criteria

With your best options written out, it’s time to list your criteria. This will help you evaluate each option using the same standards.

For the sales example, some criteria could be:

You will use these criteria to rate each solution, so make sure they are the most important to your goal.

5. Draw Up Your Matrix

Now it’s time to put everything together! The final step is to draw up your decision matrix. 

Each row will represent a potential solution, while each column will represent a criterion.

6. Evaluate Your Options

You are now ready to evaluate your options. The goal is to rate each option on a scale of 1–5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent.

(Of course, you don’t have to use values 1 to 5 — any scale that makes sense will work just fine.)

To do this, look at one solution at a time and ask yourself how well it meets the criterion listed in the column. Then, mark down the rating accordingly.

For example, if one solution would increase revenue by $10,000, and another would increase $15,000, you might rate the first option as a 3 and the second option as a 5.

Once there is a value in every box, total up the ratings for each solution, and the one with the highest score is your winner!

7. Refine and Repeat

The beauty of a decision matrix is that it’s flexible. If you’re not happy with one of your ratings or if a new solution comes to mind, you can easily go back and revise your matrix.

Decision matrices take the guesswork out of making decisions. Following these simple steps, you can systematically evaluate your options and make the best choice possible.

Limitations and Challenges of Using a Decision Matrix

While a decision matrix is a powerful tool for structuring and simplifying complex decision-making processes, it has limitations and challenges. Recognizing these potential pitfalls can help you make more informed use of the matrix and adapt it to better suit your specific context. 

Here are some key considerations:

  1. Subjectivity in scoring and weighting: Despite its structured approach, a decision matrix involves a degree of subjectivity, particularly when assigning scores to alternatives or weights to criteria. Different individuals may have different perspectives, leading to potential inconsistencies.
  2. Oversimplification of complex decisions: The decision matrix can sometimes oversimplify complex or multifaceted decisions. Not all aspects of a decision can be easily quantified or reduced to simple criteria and scores.
  3. Limitations with non-quantifiable criteria: It can be challenging to quantify certain criteria, such as aesthetic appeal, brand reputation, or individual preference. These aspects can be difficult to translate into scores in a decision matrix.
  4. Risk of ignoring interdependencies: A decision matrix evaluates each criterion independently, which can overlook potential interdependencies or interactions among criteria.
  5. Time and resource intensive: Creating and maintaining a decision matrix can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, particularly for complex decisions involving many criteria and alternatives.
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Final Thoughts: Leverage Software Tools and Applications for Decision Matrix

As decision-making grows ever more complex in the face of rapid technology advancements and unpredictable business environments, leveraging software tools and applications to create and manage decision matrices can be hugely beneficial. Digital platforms enable greater efficiency, accuracy, and usability by automating many tedious aspects associated with these matrices. 

From general-purpose spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets that allow for customized decisions to specialized decision-making apps like Decision Matrix, AHP, or Expert Choice boasting advanced features and analytics capabilities – plenty of options are available. The Eisenhower Decision Matrix has even been integrated into popular productivity apps such as Todoist and, offering a digital platform to prioritize tasks effectively. 

Switching to these digital platforms can significantly improve the decision-making process, making it more dynamic, collaborative, and capable of keeping up with today’s data-driven world. However, it’s important to remember that these tools support sound judgment and critical thinking – not replace them!