The Ultimate Guide to the Weighted Decision Matrix

(Also known as a Weighted Average Decision Matrix, Weighted Decision Making Grids, Weighted Criteria Decision Matrix and Pugh Matrix Analysis).

Making a decision by weighing up all the different options.

Imagine the toughest choice you’ve had to make this year. Hard wasn’t it. Would you like to make your next big decision easier and be confident in the result? You’re in the right place!

Decision making is part of everyday life. You make decisions from the moment you wake up (shall I have an extra five minutes in bed?), to the moment you go to sleep (should I close my eyes or read another chapter?). Every hour of the day is full of decision-making scenarios whether you are at home, school, working or relaxing. Most of the time the decisions you take are easy. Some of the time you need some help to decide. Occasionally you face a tough decision that scrambles your mind, raises stress levels and potentially might cause issues with friends, colleagues or family. Wouldn’t it be great if you could demonstrate to yourself and others how and why you reached your decision?

Imagine the work scenario that keeps you awake at night. Colleagues can’t agree on the issues and your boss just wants the facts and data. Getting it wrong could prove costly. Or perhaps your family is at war over where to hold a wedding. Relationships are at stake. Decisions need to be made. The correct ones. What to do?

With blood pressure rising and thinking even harder to do, the wrong decision is ironically even harder to avoid. Your boss is losing patience or there are tears at home. Thankfully, there is an easy to use solution that will help you make an informed decision you and everyone else can believe in.

Arm yourself with a weighted decision matrix template and get started right away. You’ll have a decision, be confident in it and be able to demonstrate your thought process to others. Then, relax!

What is a weighted decision matrix?

A Weighted Decision Matrix is a tool used to reach a decision by comparing multiple different options measured by critical factors that are weighted by importance. The weighted decision matrix was invented by Stuart Pugh, a former Professor at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. A completed matrix allows a user to see their options ranked and provides a basis on which to make a decision. Used in many different decision-making scenarios where there is a choice between options to be made e.g. when choosing where to go on holiday. Read more here.

Example of a Weighted Decision Matrix
Click to view this example of a weighted decision matrix

What is a weighted decision matrix used for?

Here’s some weighted matrix decision making in action. Click through to see some examples:

When should you use a decision matrix?

Use a decision matrix if you are:

  • Deciding between multiple options
  • Trying to turn a long list of options into a shortlist
  • Wanting to make a final decision between options
  • Going to present different options to other people
  • Weighing up how important different factors are
  • Trying to take a logical, non-emotional approach to the decision

Click to read more about when to use a weighted decision matrix.

How to use the weighted decision matrix tool

Scroll down to see our video which demonstrates the steps or read our blog post which goes into more depth about how to use a weighted decision matrix.

  1. Write down the decision you need to make
  2. Decide what factors need to be considered
  3. Weight the factors importance relative to each other
  4. List all of the potential options you need to decide between
  5. Use the grid to score each option against each factor

Congratulations, you’ve made a decision!

How to make a weighted decision matrix

Why not just download one instead and save some time? If you really want to create one and make it yourself, you’ll need excel and some time. Maybe make a cup of tea first.

Occasionally we get asked if we can do an unweighted decision matrix. No, no we don’t. You could try and make that yourself as well if you like. Just avoid the weighting formulas.

How to optimise your weighted decision matrix

Start with a list of your options, think about which factors are the most important and then give everything a score right? It is easy to complete your template, but you can make it even easier for yourself following the tips below:

Remove your ‘fantasy’ selections. If you can’t afford a Ferrari, why have it in the list. If you have options to choose from that don’t easily pass a Go/No Go test such as cost, don’t waste your time scoring it for everything else.

Score by row, not by column. If you assess your first option against every factor before moving to your second option, then you risk not assessing your options against each other as well as you could. In the holiday example, score each destination against the cost factor first before moving to the next row.

It’s a snapshot in time. Keep your matrix up to date as time goes by because things change, and you do to. You might have new options to consider, or your budget might come under pressure and your priorities change.

Be honest with yourself when scoring. Put the score that you want to give, not what you think someone else wants you to do.

Use in a team environment. There’s two ways to do this. You could use one matrix and fill it in as a team with live discussion over every aspect of it, which can be a little messy. Alternatively, give everyone a matrix to complete themselves. At the very least this may make two or three options very obvious contenders whilst eliminating the rest. Working out an average may even give you a clear winner.

Strengths and weaknesses of the weighted decision matrix

A weighted decision matrix is an easy to use and important tool to aid in evaluating proposals and making a final decision. It forces people to think through all aspects and to be critical in their approach to decision making. It allows people to take a breath, question what appears to be common sense, challenge assumptions and apply good judgment. However, it is still important to ask, what are the weaknesses of a weighted decision matrix?

Objectivity, both in choosing rating factors and weighting them is key for the decision matrix to be a viable decision-making tool. Allowing personal prejudices to skew either allows gut-feeling to overcome a more scientific approach. Enjoy the thought required in the process knowing that you are being made to be thoughtful and avoid assumptions. There will always be a certain amount of uncertainty and subjectivity in any approach to decision making, you’re human after all. Embrace the questioning approach, seek opinions to guide you and be honest. You’ll feel more confident that your decision was correct.

If the main strength of the weighted decision matrix is that subjective opinions about one alternative versus another can be made more objective, what are the disadvantages? There are several, and knowledge of them will make your use of the tool even better. Here are some:

You can’t be certain that you have thought of all the factors you need to make the decision. That’s why we say a matrix should be revisited and is a live document. Things change and new factors become apparent.

Too many options can be a distraction and can pander to your prejudices, skewing the results.

Go/No go criteria must be weighted heavily and not outweighed by other minor factors,

What’s important to you may not be important to others affected by the decision.

The weighting given to any factor is still a feeling rather than a quantitative scientific measure.

Your evaluation of a decision, whether for yourself or a business is probably based on approximate and subjective measures and won’t require advanced mathematics. If you want to read about more advanced forms of MCDA (Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis), which is also known as MCDM (Multiple Criteria Decision Management) or Multiple Criteria Decision Aid, Wikipedia is a good place to start.

We think our matrix template might be all that you need.

Decision Matrix Infographic

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Click to go to our downloads page and get your weighted decision matrix template.

Weighted Decision Matrix Definition

What is the definition of a weighted decision matrix?

weighted decision matrix is a simple tool used in decision making to enable the user to choose between several different options available to them.

The options are scored against a set of factors important to the decision. The factors themselves are weighted numerically to put them in order of least to most important. A decision is reached by giving a score for each option against each of the factors and then multiplying the score by the weighting. This is done on a grid which can be paper based or built in an .xlsx excel spreadsheet. To save you the time, there is a weighted decision matrix template on our downloads page.

Once a matrix is completed, it is easy to quickly change scores and weightings to influence the result. It is most helpful in that it allows a user to think through all options associated with a decision and forces them to assess the relative importance of all the factors involved. This can be done in isolation or as a group where others are affected by the decision. The technique encourages simple decisions to be thought through and systematically analysed helping to avoid those, “I wish I’d thought of that” moments.

You can see an example of a decision to be reached, the options and the factors involved clearly in this simple decision matrix below:

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