The Matrix for Making Decisions

question-markA friend of mine contacted me today, saying she wanted to do ‘the Bailey matrix’ to help her decide whether to start her own business.

The matrix is something that, back when we were graduates in Canberra almost 20 years ago, I would draw up for friends in the hope of it helping them decide what they wanted to do next with their lives. Using a spreadsheet.

Another friend, Andrew Dempster, used a similar matrix which we all called the Dempster matrix (Hi Andrew!). I can’t remember now if it was Andrew or I who innovated the weighting approach – where you weight different options according to their fulfilment of various important goals. It doesn’t really matter who did it – but it was a turning point for the utility of the matrix, allowing you to give a higher score to things which mattered the most to you. Effectively, it introduced the variable of subjective value into a spreadsheet.

All jokes aside, the matrix is actually a very useful tool for making decisions. Not so much that you use the scores religiously to determine what job you might take, but that the process itself helps you to clarify whats important to you, and how various options will help you to achieve those things.

I actually use a variant of the matrix these days with clients when trying to establish if their program budgets are going towards the right areas, based on their overall goals or mission. It is slightly more complex – it includes things like duration of engagement, level of subsidy, and stakeholder target groups – but the principle is the same. It is a way of measuring your actions (real or proposed) against your values. Yes, using a spreadsheet.

So here it is in all of its glory – the Matrix of Making Decisions. Use it as a guide only :-).

I am happy to share the Matrix under a Creative Commons License – Share Alike/ Non-Commercial. This just means, please don’t go out and use it to make your millions (or if you do, please tell me how you managed it. I’ve only ever gotten the occasional beer or block of Dairy Milk from it ;-).

Jackie Bailey

Principal, BYP Group