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When to use a decision matrix (and when not to)

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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 choosing among a few comparable solutions with multiple quantitative criteria. Steve Kurniawan, a content specialist and growth strategist at Nine Peaks Media, said that 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.”

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The decision matrix process is best used when deciding on something that does not require a sense of emotion, as it is a logical tool by nature. For example, Devero said, the matrix is not ideal when choices are purely a matter of taste or style. However, she noted that it removes intuition, which 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,” Devero said.

It’s best to use a decision matrix to assess a situation from a logical viewpoint and have enough comparable variables to conduct a weighted analysis.

The matrix can be used on its own or in tandem with other decision-making tools and techniques. For example, if you are choosing a course of action for a business strategy or deciding among scenarios for a long-term career plan, Devero believes that a decision matrix could be a useful tool. However, she advised against relying solely on it.

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