How can I decide? There are too many alternatives and variables!

5 Simple Steps to Make a Decision Using a “Pugh” Matrix

How many times have you come across a situation where there are many alternatives to choose from and you are unsure how you pick the best option objectively? Fortunately, there a simple tool called a “Pugh” matrix that offers a method to compare different solutions with a multi-dimensional approach. Often a decision is made based on internal knowledge. While the decision may be accurate, it is important to validate the decision and present your rationale to others using unbiased data.


The easiest way to demonstrate the power of this tool is to walk through an example. Here is an example of an important life decision that could benefit from this tool.  You are in the market for a house. Your real estate agent has shown you multiple houses, which you have narrowed down to 3. You are paralyzed with the decision, as you struggle to compromise on features. Recognizing that you cannot satisfy all desires, how do you choose?

Let’s see how the “Pugh” matrix will help you make that decision. For now, we will use a simple process by defining your selection criteria:

  • First, list all features, which are important to you. For example number of bathrooms, pool, backyard size, etc.
  • Next, assign an importance score (1-Low, 3-Med, 9-High) to each feature. Not all features will have the same importance, and this score will weigh each feature score against the outcome decision.
  • Pick 1 house as a reference (this concept is known as the “datum”).
  • Now compare each house against the datum using your house criteria by assigning a rating “S” if the compared house is same as the datum.  Assign “+” if better, and “-“ if worse.
  • The tool will sum the total count of “S”, “+” and “-“ entries, and apply the importance score weight. The optimal choice will be the house with the highest total score.

The following is a completed example based upon the scenario above (House # 3 is the optimal choice with a total score of 14):

Criteria Importance House # 1
House # 2 House # 3
3+ bedrooms 9 D S +
Location 3 A + S
Water view 1 T
3 car garage 3 U +
3+ bathrooms 9 M +
Sum of  “S” 1 1
Sum of  “+” 2 3
Sum of  “-“ -2 -1
Weighted Sum of  “+” 6 13
Weighted Sum of  “-“ -10 -9
Total -4 14

This tool can be used in nearly any situation, in work and life, where many alternatives exist. Examples include; Vendor selection, Application design alternatives or Process optimization options.

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