I’ve spent most of my career in a “consulting type” job, either working for a major consultancy or in a project-oriented corporate role. Consulting typically involves running or assisting on projects that are tasked with solving a specific problem. And problem solving typically requires some sort of structure to bring order to the chaos and credibility to the proposed solution. Enter the 2×2 matrix.
The 2×2 matrix was originally designed by Bruce Henderson of the Boston Consulting Group in the early 1970s. It was meant to classify a company’s business into four categories and help them allocate resources and management attention based on attributes of the business. As with all frameworks, its usefulness has been questioned at times, but its principles have remained widely accepted. But more importantly than the specific original analysis focused on growth-share, Henderson introduced a powerful way of communicating multiple dimensions of an issue into an easy to understand construct.
I love 2×2 matrices. I think they are incredibly useful when it comes to approaching a comparative analysis, I think they are very effective at distilling multiple attributes of an issue together into a clear “so what” that can drive decision making, and I think they can be fun. A couple “proof points” for why I love the 2×2 come to mind:
They Easily Communicate the Intersection of Attributes: The intersection of high market share and high growth is a “star.” Makes sense. The intersection of low effort and high reward is “do it now.” The intersection of cheap and meal is “fast food.” It makes it easy enough that everyone can understand it.
They Show Multiple Options, but the Winner is Clear: Articulating a position with proof points, in a written or verbal argument, can be an effective way to make a point. However, a 2×2 matrix dismantles an item (project, business line, strategic option, etc.) into its attributes to methodically make a point. Do you agree that it’s critical to the business? Yes. Do you agree that it’s cheap to get done? Yes. Then it’s clear we need to focus on it now. It also shows “bad” options on the same page, which can make the “good” options look better by comparison.
They are Flexible: You can add additional fidelity through various sized bubbles or graphics, using the size to indicate a 3rd dimension (such as spend or expected revenue), coloring to indicate a 4th dimension, and arrows to indicate movement between quadrants and the requirements and implications of doing so. You can also show how the landscape of a 2×2 matrix changes over time when matrices are placed side-by-side.
They are Kind of Fun: 2×2’s give you the ability to inject your own personality through how you “name” the various quadrants. You can be creative and clever by using persuasive language, or use current events or personalities to add a little humor, and likely make your argument even more persuasive.
A couple of my favorite 2×2 matrices are below:
The person who did this apparently had a bad time at a DoubleTree hotel. I give them extra points for the snarkiness of including “competitors” that really aren’t.
We created this for a “Thought Crunch” meeting where we challenged the efficacy of PMO organizations. Star Wars fans will especially like this one.
So the next time you’re trying to decide whether or not you should use a 2×2 matrix, just follow this handy 2×2 matrix below:
Need I say more?