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Issues Matrix - Exercise For Managing Complex Issues/Problems

Posted on by Brandon Klein

DESCRIPTION:
A matrix is a simple format that is useful for analyzing many issues. A common DesignTeam assignment is for participants to build a matrix model of the situation under consideration. To build a matrix, you define two parameters (typically as an x and y axis) and assess what you get at each intersection. This is usually a fast-track assignment (given to one team while others work different issues); rarely, as a co-process assignment (the same assignment given to all teams). Examples: 1. Types of Work: one axis ranges from mass-produced to custom-built; the second axis, from high-tech to low-tech (with defined gradations in between). Assess the potential for each combination of choices. 2. Corporate structure: one axis is the hierarchy, from CEO to line worker; the other axis, the kinds of decisions to be made, from strategic to task. Analyze at each intersection the nature of the activity; for example, decide, recommend, advise/consult, implement, inform. 3. Product development: one axis is mass-produced to custom-built; the second, annual family income of potential customers. Assess the company’s highest potential product in each category.

MISSION:
To clarify through analysis of a situation; to build a model that forces systematic thinking across a range of choices.

TIMING/TIME REQUIREMENTS:
This can be used in Scan; more often is used as a Focus assignment. Requires a typical DesignTeam round.

DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS:
Strengths — Requires participants to think systematically. Weaknesses — Highly specific — participants may feel it’s overly restrictive. Specifications for Success — 1. If you assign participants to build a matrix, be sure the assignment is challenging enough and hold them to it. If you have doubts, give them a more general (and challenging) assignment, and let the matrix format be a suggestion rather than a requirement of their assignment.

VARIATIONS:
Often, teams are given a general assignment to build a model; then the facilitators may choose to suggest the issues matrix format as appropriate when they are working in their teams. This is a less restrictive approach.