Decision Making Tools – Paired Comparison, Grid and Decision Tree Analysis


We make decisions every day. Sometimes we can make those decisions quickly if the situation is familiar or we know the priorities. In other cases, however, we might need a better way to think through our options or the complexity of the problem.

Paired Comparison Analysis, Grid/Decision Matrix Analysis and Decision Tree Analysis are three great tools that can help you make decisions.

Paired Comparison Analysis

Paired comparison analysis is helpful when you have very different options to choose from, if the choice is subjective or if you don’t have much objective data to help in your decision. Paired comparison analysis helps you work out the relative importance of a number of options – essentially helping you “compare apples and oranges.”

How does paired comparison analysis work?

Paired comparison analysis helps you make a decision by comparing multiple options in pairs. If you have three choices – A, B, and C:

  1. Ask yourself, “Do you prefer option A over option B? B over C? A over C?”
  2. Using this system of comparison, move through your options and give paired comparison a score
  3. At the end you tally up the scores to tell you which option is your best choice.

A useful tool to help you in this process is the Paired Comparison Analysis Worksheet, which helps you place your options in a grid for better comparison and scoring.

Find out more about Paired Comparison Analysis.

Grid/Decision Matrix Analysis

Do you need to make a decision with a number of good options and many factors to take into account? The Grid/Decision Matrix Analysis is a useful technique for an important choice where there is no clear or preferred option.

How does Grid/Decision Matrix Analysis work?

The Grid/Decision Matrix Analysis works by listing your options as rows on a table and the factors you need to consider as columns. You then score each option/factor combination, weight the score by its relative importance, and then add up the scores to give you an overall score for each option.

For example, you need to choose a vendor for a specific piece of equipment. You have several vendors to choose that are all equally good. In making your choice, you also need to consider the following factor: cost, vendor location and technical support.

  1. First, go through each vendor and consider your deciding factors. Give each vendor a score on their prices, location and availability of support.
  2. Next, ask yourself, “How important is each factor in my decision?” Is price very important? What about location and support?
  3. Now take the vendor scores for each factor and weight them by how important you think the factor is.
  4. Finally, add up the vendors’ total scores. The vendor with the highest score gets your business.

Download the Grid/Decision Matrix Analysis Worksheet or find out more about Grid/Decision Matrix Analysis.

Decision Tree Analysis

Do you have several courses of action you could take, but want to know all (or most) of the possible outcomes before making a decision? The Decision Tree Analysis tool can help you lay out all your options and look at at the possible outcome of choosing those options.

How does Decision Tree Analysis work?

The Decision Tree Analysis begins with a starting point, or “trunk” – the decision you need to make. From the trunk, “tree limbs” span outward, each one representing a possible solution. Each tree branch then splits into “branches” as you consider the potential results of each decision. You may find some branches are longer than others, as you investigate possible solutions and their results and begin to consider even more long-range effects. The finished product will give you a quick visual map of the long-range results of your decision.

For example, your park’s Interpretation Division wants to create a new program and you need to choose what type of program. You have two options: a led hike or a formal program at the visitor center.

  1. You start with the decision you need to make – what type of program should we create?
  2. Draw two limbs – one for the led hike and one for the formal program.
  3. Now consider the results of each decision. What are the possible positive and negative outcomes if you create a led hike? What about a formal program? Each possible outcome gets a branch.
  4. Will any of your “branches” have outcomes you need to consider? Keep going until you have investigated each potential result.
  5. Now you have a useful overview of all the potential results of your decision and can make a choice with a good idea of the long-term effects of each option.

The Decision Tree can be as large and as detailed as you need it to be. How far you decide to investigate your decision is up to you.

Find out more about Decision Tree Analysis.


  • Think about the decisions you need to make for your job. Would any of these tools help you in sorting through your options?
  • Can you think of a previous decision you had to make that would have benefited from one of these tools?

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