Using a Pugh decision matrix to help make objective decisions

The Pugh Decision Matrix was invented by Stuart Pugh, a design engineer and academic.  His seminal book was called, “Total Design” which he defined as, “Total Design is the systematic activity necessary, from the identification of the market / user need, to the selling of the successful product to satisfy that need – an activity that encompasses product, process, people and organisations.”

One of the decision tools invented by Stuart Pugh was the Weighted Decision Matrix.  Here is an example of what a weighted decision matrix looks like.

As you can see, the decision matrix is a tool that helps you make a choice between several options based on the importance of the factors involved in the decision making process.  It is important to understand that this system doesn’t magically produce an answer to your question where no options previously existed.  You must be in a position where you are trying to decide between different solutions to your problem.  In the example above, the decision matrix is helping a small business to decide which accountant to employ but you can use the tool in many different situations such as when choosing where to go on holiday or deciding which car to purchase to name just a couple.

Too often poor decisions are made because every angle isn’t considered and emotion takes over.  This method encourages people to draw breath, step back and think through every factor involved which by design makes the decision much more objective.

The decision matrix is weighted so as to give more value to the most important factors.  This allows the model to better reflect real life where practical factors such as cost are far more important than emotional needs such as the desire for a luxury holiday.  Cost has to outweigh the level of luxury and the model allows this to happen by removing the emotion from the decision.

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To use the decision matrix, you need to list the options you have and the factors to consider as in the example above.  Each factor then needs to be weighted by giving it a score out of five where the higher the number the more important the factor.  A result is reached simply by filling out the matrix by scoring each option against each factor.  The scores are then multiplied by the weighted value and each column added up to give a total score.  The winner is then easily identified.

The matrix can be used as a tool by yourself or as a group.  It can be filled in after discussion with other people involved in the decision making process or you could ask everyone to fill it in independently before comparing and contrasting the results.  Try both methods to see which you prefer but be prepared for a heated discussion about which factors are the most important and why one option deserves a four rather than a five!  In all honesty, this is a great way of teasing out objections and difficulties in a decision making group.  You may not like doing so but it will save you from lengthy discussion further down the line.

If you decide to construct a weighted decision matrix let us know if you did it alone or in a group and what experiences you had.  How did it work for you?  Let us know in the comments down below.

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