Have you ever had to make a hard decision among different options, but you are not sure how to go about that? How can you make sure that you are making an objective decision versus a biased one? Don’t get stuck in Decision paralysis. Read on to learn one of the best techniques for making decisions. You will learn how to make decisions that you could apply to any area of your life.
Subjective vs Objective Decision making
Do you make your decisions objectively, or subjectively / biased? Without an unbiased process, you could easily end up making subjective decisions that may not be the best decision if you were truly objective. This article lists 7 strategies for making objective decisions. While the 7 strategies are pretty helpful, I would like to present a technique that could address all of these strategies at once:
Creating a Decision Matrix
Thes technique which I want to present to you is to create a Decision Matrix. The process of creating a Decision Matrix will help you establish your evaluation criteria, weigh which evaluation criteria are most important, and arrive at an objective decision. Once you know this technique, you can easily do this on a piece of paper, however, if you do have a computer handy, a spreadsheet would be an ideal tool to represent the Decision Matrix. In this article, I will be using the example of deciding which car to buy to illustrate the Decision Matrix.
Step 1: Establish Evaluation Criteria
The first things you will need to establish are the evaluation criteria that matter. You can come up with these evaluation criteria in different ways depending on who is the ultimate beneficiary of this decision. This could be you or another party, such as a client, user personas, your family, etc. You may have to ask or interview people what are their evaluation criteria, or perform user research. In this example, I will consider my son to be the beneficiary, so I will create evaluation criteria with my son in mind. After talking to my son, we decide that these are the criteria that matter to him:
- Fuel efficiency
- Engine Horsepower
- Has blue color variant
Step 2: Rate Evaluation Criteria Importance
The next step is to rate how important each of these criteria are. You will need to ask yourself or the primary beneficiary how important these are. Again, these could be users, clients, and there are different ways to determine the criteria importance. In this case, I discussed with my son how important each of these criteria are and decided to use a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is least important, and 5 is most important. You can use any scale you like as long as the scale is consistent between evaluation criteria. Now, let’s start putting this in a spreadsheet:
Step 3: List Decision Options
You now need to come up with various options to decide from. You may have to search for alternatives to widen your search in case you don’t know what alternate options exist. It is a good idea to search for alternatives outside of what you know, so that you may be exposed to a wider array of options for your decision-making process. In this example, we will be considering a small car for my son and will be considering these options: Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Scion XB, BMW 3. BMW3 is a bit of an outlier, but let’s see how it fares in the decision matrix. Now the spreadsheet looks like this:
Step 4: Evaluate Each Option using the Criteria
For each of the options, we will now rate each of the evaluation criteria. You can rate options by evaluating each of the criteria. Sometimes you will have to test each of the criteria from each option, talk to salespeople, get user testimonials, use consumer reports. For this example, we are using a combination of sources: Consumer Reports for reliability, manufacturer specifications, my son’s judgment on style, and the prices for each car. We rate each of these criteria on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1=worst, and 10=best.
Step 5: Calculate the Weighted Scores
Now that you have all the ratings, you can calculate a weighted score by multiplying each of the ratings by it’s importance, and summing up all the scores for each option. In a spreadsheet, you can use the SUMPRODUCT function to achieve that. The score for Toyota Corolla in this example would be expressed with this function: =SUMPRODUCT($B2:$B7, C2:C7). From this example, we can now easily see that the Scion XB scores the highest, so that should be the best option for my son!
Optional Step: Convert Scores to Percentages
The score scale will depend a bit on the actual values. If you want to see the scores in percentages, you can do so easily by dividing the scores by the maximum possible score. In this case, we will divide all scores by the sum of evaluation criteria importance times 10. The results are consistent and we can see that the Scion XB has the highest score of 83.6%.
At Jonajo Consulting, we use the Decision Matrix technique to make many of our decisions. We use it to evaluate what software to recommend to our clients, to decide what tools or technologies to use ourselves, and even which people to hire!
Free Downloadable Decision Matrix!
To help you make objective decisions, I’ve included a Decision Matrix Template with this article. It is based on the car buying example used here. Feel free to use it for making your own decisions!