How to use a Weighted Decision Matrix?

Firstly, create or download our weighted decision matrix template on excel. Write down the decision you need to make in the form of a question which will have several possible answers. It could be something simple or more fundamental, it really doesn’t matter, the decision matrix will cope with either scenario. We like to use it for big family decisions such as where to go on holiday or what sort of car should we get next. You can all look at the screen, decide on the factors involved and then debate the scores and when you do that all angles are covered.

How to use a Weighted Decision Matrix?

1. Choose the question to answer, double click on the “Type your question here” cell and type it in.

2. Next you need to decide on the factors involved in the decision you are making. When considering the question think Who, When, Why, What and How to prompt you to think of everything you need to. Look at our example below to get you started.

3. Now you need to weight the factors you settled on in the second step. It’s easiest to do this by giving the most important factor a value of 5 and the least important a value of 1. It’s important to do this but if you really can’t decide on the order it is okay to give two factors a weighting that is the same. We don’t recommend it as you are less likely to get a clear result but hey, that’s up to you. In the same way, you could give the most important factor an even higher value if it is that important. Every factor involved needs to be weighted to reflect its relative importance.

4. List all of your possible options on the options row next, any order you like. This is probably a shortlist of options you are already decided on. Discard anything completely unrealistic to save yourself some time. Do you really want to fly all the way to Australia with three children under six?

5. The final step is to score all of your options out of 5 or 10 or even a hundred against all of the different factors. So option ‘A’ may score a 5 for the first factor but only a 1 for the second but both could end up with the same weighted score depending on how you set up the weightings in step 3. Confused? Just have a go and it will all become clear.

If you’re using one of our templates then the highest score will be highlighted to make it obvious what the winning decision is.

If you prefer, we also have a video guide to how to use a weighted decision matrix. You may want to read our ultimate guide to the weighted decision matrix first. If you get really stuck you can tweet us or ask a question on Facebook as well. Have fun!

What are the weaknesses of a Weighted Decision Matrix?

What are the weaknesses of a Weighted Decision Matrix?

The weaknesses of a weighted decision matrix include criticisms of how the options and factors involved are arbitrary or incomplete; how it can suffer from bias and that scoring methods can be manipulated. It is important to understand these limitations when using the tool to make an important decision.

  1. When listing all the options to choose between there is no way of knowing whether there are any missing without having to consult widely and every eventuality considered. No-one can know everything and important options can be left out without realising.
  2. It is also possible to mislead others by deliberately presenting the weighted decision matrix as a scientific approach to a problem with no equal, and then leaving out options to be considered either on purpose or through personal bias.
  3. The list of criteria can be extended to include many factors that are related to each other or have limited impact on the decision to be made. In totality, these can add up to be as important or even more so than the most important factors leading to an inaccurate decision.
  4. A weighting mechanism that gives accurate relative weighting to all factors involved is difficult and often a subjective process. Giving a value from one to five to five different factors will not weight the most important factor correctly if it is of much more importance relatively. A scoring method to reflect this must be worked out e.g. scores of 1,2,3,4 and 10 may be more accurate.
  5. An objective approach to scoring using quantitative measurements is difficult to achieve in many scenarios and often overlooked entirely.
  6. A team approach to scoring can result in averages being used or the loudest voice listened to. Again, this is still a subjective approach.
  7. Ruling out options that have scored poorly overall can result in missing out on strengths they have on one or two factors. Opportunities to improve the winner against these factors by learning from the losers can be missed if they are dismissed too quickly.
  8. If an option completely fails against one factor, it needs to be ruled out as a possible winner early in the process or time could be wasted trying to make it work by others not aware of the failure against a Go/No Go criteria.

Whilst you’ll appreciate we love our weighted decision matrix template as a simple yet effective decision making tool, it is fair to say that it does have its weaknesses.  If you’d like to know more and you’re feeling academic then there is an excellent paper written by Douglas Hubbard and Dylan Evans.

How to improve the Weighted Decision Matrix?

To Improve Weighted Decision Matrix

We received an interesting question recently about how to use different range values in a weighted decision matrix and would welcome our readers thoughts in the comments below. Here’s the question (thank you Sam)…

The problem is that I want to be able to use different value ranges for each factor, but I am not exactly sure how to do that. I know of two possible solutions to this problem. One possible solution is to divide each score by the largest number in its value range (and then do the usual stuff–multiply the score by the weighting, add up the scores, etc.). Another possible solution is to add up each score in a factor and then divide each score by that sum (this is shown in the previous email’s video).

What I want to know is if you can help me find the best solution to this problem. Is the first possible solution correct? Or is it the second one? Neither? Both?

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below…

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