Decision Matrix can help your group decide: Part 2

Decision Matrix uses data to help groups come to consensus.

The Facilitative Leadership Program from Michigan State University Extension teaches several convergent thinking tools.  These tools allow facilitators to help groups determine what the top solutions may be and make it is possible to discover the answer through analyzing the ideas generated in brainstorming.  Among those tools is a decision matrix.   

The University of Wisconsin Extension talks about decision making tools by stating that, anyone with experience working in today’s fast paced world knows how difficult it is to sort out priorities and get to a good decision. And the task of making decisions is constant in our work. How can you organize your thinking so that every such situation doesn’t require reinventing the wheel? How can you make lasting decisions? This article will discuss how a facilitator should put the tool into practice by walking through each step, while the application of decision matrix, which was discussed in Part 1.

The Facilitator Excellence Instructor’s Guide, by Fran Rees, 1998, explains the steps to creating a decision matrix with a group.

  1. First ask the group to brainstorm a list of characteristics of an ideal solution or choice. Record these on a flip chart.
  2. For each criterion listed, ask the group to determine whether it is a characteristic the solution must have or whether it is simply desirable. Label each characteristic: M (must have) or D (desirable).
  3. Ask the group to weight each desirable criterion according to its importance. Use a scale of 1 to 5 (or 1 to 10), with the highest number signifying the highest importance. Each desirable criterion will then have a number that indicates how important it is to the final decision.
  4. Draw a decision matrix on the flip chart like the one shown in the boxed sample. List the must-have criteria first down the left side, followed by the desirable criteria. List the alternatives (or a symbol or an abbreviation that represents each alternative) across the top.
  5. Ask the group to rate each alternative as to whether it meets the must-have criteria. Do not consider the desirable criteria at this point. Eliminate any alternatives that do not meet all of the must-have criteria.
  6. For the remaining alternatives, determine to what extent each meets the desirable criteria, using a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 signifying that the alternative meets the criterion very well and 1 signifying that the alternative meets the criterion only to a minimum extent. Multiply the number that represents the importance of that criterion by the number signifying the extent to which the alternative meets that criterion. Write both numbers and show the score (e.g., 2 x 5 = 15) in the corresponding box. Continue until all remaining alternatives have been evaluated. The result should resemble the second boxed sample.
  7. After each alternative has been considered in relation to all the desirable criteria and given a score, determine the total score for each alternative and write it at the bottom of the matrix in a “Total” row. The alternative with the highest score best meets the established criteria. (Note: The alternative with the highest score is not necessarily the final decision. However, this is a rational approach for weighting one alternative against another.)
  8. The next step is to look at the highest-scoring alternative and determine whether this really does seem to be the best decision. Ask the group: “Were any criteria overlooked?” “What intuitive response does each of you have about the results?” “Does this seem like the right decision? Why or why not?”

MSU Extension offers professional development training, including volunteer board development, communicating through conflict, meeting management and facilitation skills development, and organizational strategic visioning and planning.  To contact an expert in your area, visit the find an expert section on the MSU Extension website.