A decision making matrix is a way in which decisions can be made easily, relatively quickly and in a fashion that is objective.  Moreover, it is easy to demonstrate how you arrived at the decision that you made, so it is a good reference point if you need to check in the future as to why a certain decision was taken.

The decision matrix below shows an example of what a decision matrix looks like.

Available Options
Option 1 Option 2 Option 4


Rating Score(1) Rating Score(1) Rating Score(1)
Health and Safety 1 3 3 3 3 3 3
Quality Control 2 2 4 1 2 2 4
Customer Satisfaction rates 3 1 3 3 9 2 6
Total 6 6 10 7 14 7 13

In this example, the criteria that is important is listed vertically, but in some instances it is placed along the top.  Either approach is fine, what is important is that the criteria are listed.

The decision making process is completed using the COWS formula.

This involves criteria, which are listed and sometimes referred to, when grouped together, as the decision model.  These criteria form the basis for the decisions to be made.

Options, which may be referred to as the alternatives or solutions.  These are listed above as available options.  It is important to list all the potential options or alternatives, because sometimes the results of the decision matrix can be surprising, so never leave out options because you do not think that they are the answer.  List each and every option and then apply the process to them in a structured fashion.

Weights, which are reflective of the importance of any one criterion.  The weights should be given a good deal of consideration ; what is important and why is it important.  The weights section will be ultimately affect the end decision, so the weighting section needs to be accurate.

Scoring: Each option has to be rated on a ratio scale, by awarding it a rating or score against every single criterion.  The score is derived from the rating x the weight.  So in the above example, Option B scores very highly in Customer Satisfaction rates; indeed it scores a 9.  This is because the weighting for Customer Satisfaction rates is a 3 and the Option B was awarded a rating of 3 and so 3×3 = 9.

The total scores are obviously the total of all the scores awarded and then totalled up.

How The Matrix Works

The matrix is completed according to your opinion (on a ratio scale, so it could be 1-10, 1-100 etc, but should not use points).  Where something is a negative factor then it is awarded a reverse number, so a safety issue with a rank of 8 (on a scale of 1-10) will be a low risk, but a score of 2 will be a high risk.

Once all the scores have been entered, then the totals will show up and the one with the most points will win. So in the example above, the option that will be chosen will be Option B, since that has 14 points, as opposed to the others that have only 10 and 13 points.

Clearly the matrix is dependent upon there being clarity when it comes to assessing the criteria to be used etc.  However, when the criteria is carefully chosen and is appropriate to the issue that is being considered, the decision matrix enables decisions to be taken using an analytical and systematic approach, rather than one that is based on subjective criteria.

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