Making decisions, even easy ones like “What should I have for breakfast today?” can often take longer than it should. Part of the problem, especially within project management, is a wrong decision can disrupt your workflow, interfere with deadlines, or impact the budget.
Good decision-making is never easy. And the more people you have in the room, the harder it gets to make a decision that everyone agrees with.
This is where the decision matrix comes in.
What is a decision matrix?
A decision matrix is a grid used in the decision-making process to make better decisions. When you set up the decision matrix, it allows you to assess your various options and balance them against each other. It’s designed to help you make decisions based on merits rather than how you feel about something.
The decision matrix is the ideal tool for those moments when you have to narrow down your decisions down from many to one and, ideally, the option that is left is the best decision to make.
A decision matrix can also be referred to as a Pugh matrix, decision grid, or a grid analysis. And, while there can be some variances in how each operates, these systems use grids to help you assess your options and make a decision.
That said, there are two different types of decision matrices; the weighted decision matrix and the unweighted decision matrix.
Weighted decision matrix
With a weighted decision matrix, you’re actively ranking and scoring your options based on certain evaluation criteria. The idea is that the option with the highest weighted score is the obvious choice. The criteria that you use to rank your choices for complex decisions is based on what you’re evaluating.
For example, if you’re trying to choose where you and your team are going to eat for lunch, you might rank the food options based on price, style of food, how quickly you can get it, and whether or not people like it. You attach a numerical value to each of the criteria (say a number from 1 - 5) and when you calculate the final score, the restaurant with the highest score at the end is your best option for your final decision.
Unweighted decision matrix
An unweighted decision matrix is similar to the weighted one, but rather than scoring the different factors in your decision, you’re assuming all things are equal. In the lunch example above, you wouldn’t need to rank based on who delivered faster, because they would all get the food to you at roughly the same time. The decision is instead based on whether or not they fulfill various requirements. Rather than looking at a score, you’re looking at a checklist.
A great example of this can be seen on almost every SaaS pricing page like this example below. The pricing plan you select is chosen based on your specific requirements.
Why use a decision matrix template
A decision matrix template helps you break out of an excel spreadsheet and move to a more automated system to help you make better decisions. With a template, you can quickly create a matrix, define the criteria, apply the weighting to the options (if you’re using a weighted decision matrix template), and tally the total score.
In this example, creating a monetization ecosystem is the best decision for the team. The decision’s weighted score is highest and all factors were included in the calculation. This decision matrix was built in Coda.
What you need before filling out a decision matrix template
Decision matrices take much of the guesswork out of making decisions, but not all. The good news is that it’s easy to gather relevant information, define your criteria, and use that to make your decision. Let’s explore what you need.
A list of decision options
Naturally, you can’t make a decision if you don’t have a list of options. Before you draw up your matrix, you need to know what your list of options is. Drop them into your grid and move on to the next step.
After you list your options, it’s time to decide on a rating scale to use for weighing each criteria (assuming you’re going to be using a weighted decision matrix). Choose a scale that’s going to help things rank in a clear way. For example, if one criteria is rated a 7.5 and another is rated a 7.6, is that enough of a difference to say one criteria is more important than the other? Be sure to define a scale that removes this kind of uncertainty.
Now it’s time to select the criteria for making your decision. This is going to be things like ROI, cost, impact, value, and potential issues with the solution. The more criteria you come up with, the more likely you are to make the best decision for your project, so don’t be afraid to list as many criteria as possible.
Once you’ve ranked everything, decide on your scoring system. It’s likely going to be an accumulation of the points awarded by your rating scale. Remember to make it easy to understand. Perhaps turn it into a percentage score so that it’s easy to evaluate each option against the others. As mentioned above, the last thing you want to do in your decision matrix is to choose between two different very close options.
👉 Get started with this Decision Matrix template.
Copy this template
After you copy this template, you can use this free decision matrix template for your project planning. This way you can visualize which options and decisions would align with your team’s goals and principles.
How to create decision matrix using Coda's free decision matrix template
Step 1: Defining a Problem & Creating Options
When making a decision for an important project or a problem, start by creating a problem statement. In
. By clicking the Add Option button, you can add details about the option such as how much it will Cost, its projected Impact, ROI, and the Risk you may have by taking it on. Based on the choices for each option, a RawScore will be calculated. A higher score means a better decision.
Step 2: Weighted Decision Making
In some projects, you may put a higher value on certain aspects of your decision making. For example, you may have a project where Impact is more important than Cost.
you can view the current point system for each Impact, ROI, and Risk. Based on the depth of each criteria, you can adjust the ratings.
Decision matrix template FAQs
What are the benefits of using a decision matrix?
The biggest benefit of the decision matrix is that it gives you a consistent way to make decisions. You won’t spend hours or days bogged down and assessing the options yourself. A clear decision making process helps make the right decision obvious.
A decision matrix removes emotion from decisions being made by a group. An example is deciding where to eat lunch with a group of friends. The decision matrix removes the back and forth discussion that often becomes frustrating. Within a group project, the same principle applies. The decision matrix makes it more likely that the best option is chosen while eliminating the extra time commonly spent discussing all of the options.
What is the difference between a decision matrix and an influence diagram?
An influence diagram maps out the path to the decision, rather than arranging the decision options in a grid. The decision matrix provides a grid of options with scoring to help you make the best decision.
What is a decision tree?
A decision tree is a model of the consequences of a decision. With a decision tree, you list the decision at the top and then branch out to the various outcomes, or consequences, of that decision. It provides a way to consider everything, good or bad, that could happen should you make that decision.
Coda is an all-in-one doc for your team’s unique processes — the rituals that help you succeed. Teams that use Coda get rid of hundreds of documents, spreadsheets, and even bespoke apps, to work quickly and clearly in one place. This template is a Coda doc. Click around to explore.