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How Can I Make a Good Decision? Use the Decision Matrix

June is here – for many, it marks the end of a college career and preparation for the “real world.” Looming decisions can overwhelm a new graduate – or any of us.  For example, many new graduates must decide: Which job should I seek or choose? Which new housing arrangement works best for me?  Should I drive, bicycle, or take public transport to work? Other key decisions many of us may need to make include: Where should we go for our vacation? What options are best for my elderly parents? Using a Decision Matrix will help you, the decision maker, weigh your options analytically.

Use the Decision Matrix when you have multiple criteria for making a decision or you need to maximize a specific set of goals or preferences. The technique deconstructs a problem into its component parts and lets you see in one display all aspects of the decision process. The steps are:

  1. Create a matrix and list your options across the top of the matrix.
  2. List your criteria for making a decision down the left side of the matrix.
  3. Assign a weight to each criterion by dividing 100 percentage points among the criteria.
  4. Work across the matrix row by row distributing 10 points among the various options. The options with the most points best satisfy the criteria; the options with the fewest points least satisfy the criteria.
  5. Add up the total points in each column. Your best choice should be the option with the most points.

Let’s try a simple example. You would like to get a job as an analyst, especially at an intelligence agency, and wonder what books you should read to be more competitive. You heard that many IC analysts use Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, but it costs $70. What other options should you consider and would they be a smarter choice?

  1. Purchase the most authoritative book on structured techniques that analysts often reference for $70.
  2. Make yourself a better analytic thinker and writer by buying Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence and Analytic Writing Guide for $61.
  3. Purchase a set of Guides that focus on key functions: Analytic Writing Guide, Analytic Briefing Guide, Handbook of Analytic Tools and Techniques, and Psychology of Intelligence Analysis for $73.
  4. Build your network to gain access to those who may hire you by registering as a student member of two intelligence community associations (e,g,. IAFIE, INSA, AFCEA) for $70.

With four options under consideration, it is time to fill out the Decision Matrix. If you question some of the values we have provided in the matrix, change them and calculate your own personal scores.

Decision Matrix Criteria % Weight SAT Book Critical Thinking Analyst Guides Membership
Be a better analyst 30% 2 (60 pts) 3 (90 pts) 4 (120 pts) 1 (30 pts)
Get an IC job 40% 4 (160 pts) 2 (80 pts) 2 (80 pts) 2 (80 pts)
Get an analyst job 30% 3 (90 pts) 3 (90 pts) 2 (60 pts) 2 (60 pts)
Total Score 100% 310 pts 260 pts 260 pts 170 pts

Analysis of the Decision Matrix would reveal:

  • If you want an IC job, you probably should pay the $70 for the SAT book.
  • If you want any job as an analyst, either the SAT book or the Critical Thinking package would serve you well.
  • If you just want to be a better analyst, you probably should buy the Guides.
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