The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

How many decisions do you make in a day? That probably isn’t a question that you think about very often, but you might be a little bit shocked when you take a moment to think about how many choices you actually make in a given day.

The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

Decisions are a regular part of life, and a regular part of business. The quality of the decisions you make is going to have a profound impact on the success that you are able to achieve on both a personal and professional level.

Given the importance of decisions in business, it only makes sense to use tools like the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix to assist in the process. When you use this matrix to guide your thinking when facing a particularly important decision, you will be able to frame the question at hand in a number of important ways. Rather than just ‘going with your gut’, this tool helps you to sort out all of the important factors before making your final choice. No tool can guarantee that you will make the right decision every time – no one makes the right choice every time – but being familiar with tools such as this is a big step in the right direction.

Making the best possible choice from the available options

One important point that is made within this decision making model is that your goal should always be to make the ‘best possible’ choice given the options at hand. It should be noted that the ‘best possible’ choice does not necessarily mean the perfect choice. You are always going to be limited in business by a variety of factors, so making the best possible pick given the options at hand should be your goal.

While the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix can become quite complex depending on how many factors are involved in a given decision, the basis of the model comes down to four steps. These four steps, which have been outlined below, can help you to move from start to finish in the decision making process.

The four step Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

Step One – Situational Analysis

You can think of this as the top level view of the decision that needs to be made. At this point, you are simply going to identify the concerns that are involved in the decision, and you are going to outline the priorities that you have in this case. Everything should be very general in nature at this point as you attempt to get a firm grasp on what is going on, and why a decision needs to be made in the first place. There must be some sort of problem or situation existing that requires a decision to be made, so understanding what is happening should always be your first objective.

Step One – Situational Analysis

With a good idea of what exactly is going on, the other matter to deal with here is to sort out your priorities. What do you want this decision to accomplish? How will you define success in this case? Knowing what you would consider to be a success can help you through the rest of the decision making process. It is important not to rush this first step – taking your time at this stage will likely save you time down the line.

Step Two – Problem Analysis

This step is where you begin to narrow in on the specifics of what is going on within the business. What problems have come up that require some sort of solution? Not only should you be concerned with the problems themselves, but more importantly, you should be focused on the root causes of those problems. After all, it is really the causes that need to be solved, not the problems themselves.

Step Two – Problem Analysis

Again, this is a point in the process that always contains the risk for taking too little time in thinking through the situation. You might assume that you know exactly what the problem is, so you may just rush through this step in order to start working on solutions. However, just as was the case with the first step, that would be a mistake. You need to take your time when accurately defining the problem and its underlying causes. Don’t presume that you know what the cause of a problem is without digging in to figure out if you are actually correct.

Step Three – Decision Analysis

Now it is time to make a decision. First, you will want to collect all of the available alternatives that you could use to solve the problem at hand so they can each be evaluated equally.

Step Three - Decision Analysis

This step in the process is all about risk analysis. Any decision that you make is going to come along with some degree of risk – what are the risks for each decision? Are they risks that you are willing to take, or not? Once all of the options have been laid out in front of you, the final decision can be made.

Step Four – Potential Problem Analysis

With a final decision made, you are going to move into potential problem analysis before you even put the decision into action. Think of this as a preventative step that is going to help keep you out of trouble when actually implementing the decision in the organization.

Before rushing into action making your decision take hold throughout the organization, think about the various issues that may come up and how they will be dealt with.

Every implementation has affects on existing operations and procedures and the impact a new decision will have on them whilst it is being put into action must be identified before proceeding. A list of the practical implications must be complied and for each item, identify the best way to prevent it occurring.

Then an element of contingency must be built into the execution phase to take account of ‘the unexpected’ changes that naturally occur in the real world.

Step Four – Potential Problem Analysis

These contingency plans and preventative actions will then be ready to use when the decision is approved for execution and will help to ensure a successful outcome.

You aren’t going to need to use this model – or any model – for every single decision that you make. Many of the decisions you face today and every other day are minor in nature, and don’t require this level of analysis.

However, for those strategically important choices that you need to be sure to get right, using the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix to aid your decision is a great option. Once you have completed the necessary steps in order to think about your choice from a variety of angles, you should have the confidence needed to make the right selection.

You can read more about the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix in our free eBook ‘Six Key Decision Making Techniques’. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Key Points

  • The Kepner-Tregoe decision making model is a four step process for gathering information and prioritizing and evaluating it.
  • Step One – Situational Analysis: Clarify the situation, outline concerns and choose a direction.
  • Step Two – Problem Analysis: Define the problem and determine its root cause.
  • Step Three – Decision Analysis: Identify alternatives and perform a risk analysis fir each one.
  • Step Four – Potential Problem Analysis: The best of the alternatives is further scrutinized against negative consequences and actions are proposed to minimize the risk.
  • Only the most important decisions you face require this level of analysis because of the time required to perform it properly.

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