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The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

Making unbiased, risk-assessed decisions.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

kepner tregoe problem solving and decision making workshop

No matter what position you hold, from the board room to the mailroom, you make decisions every day.

And the end result in business is directly linked to the quality of the decisions made at each point along the way.

So, not surprisingly, decision-making is a universally important competence in business. Some decisions clearly have a greater impact on the business than others, but the underlying skill is the same: the difference is in the scope and depth of the process you go through to reach your decision.

One reason why decision-making can be so problematic is that the most critical decisions tend to have to be made in the least amount of time. You feel pressured and anxious. The time pressure means taking shortcuts, jumping to conclusions, or relying heavily on instinct to guide your way.

Kepner-Tregoe: Taking the Guesswork out of Decision-Making

In your organization, you've probably heard of someone who made it all the way to VP by relying on his gut to make decisions. At the other extreme is the guy who simply can't make a decision because he analyzes the situation to death. The bottom line is, you have to make decisions, and you have to make good decisions. Poor decisions are bad for business. Worse still, one poor decision can lead to others, and so the impact can be compounded and lead to more and more problems down the line.

Thankfully, decision-making is a skill set that can be learned and improved on. Somewhere between instinct and over-analysis is a logical and practical approach to decision-making that doesn't require endless investigation, but helps you weigh up the options and impacts.

One such approach is called the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix. It provides an efficient, systematic framework for gathering, organizing and evaluating decision-making information. The approach was developed by Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in the 1960s and they first wrote about it in the business classic, The Rational Manager (1965). The approach is well-respected and used by many of the world's top organizations including NASA and General Motors. [1]

The Kepner-Tregoe Approach

The Kepner-Tregoe approach is based on the premise that the end goal of any decision is to make the "best possible" choice. This is a critical distinction: the goal is not to make the perfect choice, or the choice that has no defects. So the decision maker must accept some risk. And an important feature of the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix is to help evaluate and mitigate the risks of your decision.

The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix approach guides you through the process of setting objectives, exploring and prioritizing alternatives, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the top alternatives, and of choosing the final "best" alternative. It then prompts you to generate ways to control the potential problems that will crop up as a consequence of your decision.

This type of detailed problem and risk analysis helps you to make an unbiased decision. By skipping this analysis and relying on gut instinct, your evaluation will be influenced by your preconceived beliefs and prior experience – it's simply human nature. The structure of the Kepner-Tregoe approach limits these conscious and unconscious biases as much as possible.

The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix comprises four basic steps:

  • Situation Appraisal – identify concerns and outline the priorities.
  • Problem Analysis – describe the exact problem or issue by identifying and evaluating the causes.
  • Decision Analysis – identify and evaluate alternatives by performing a risk analysis for each and then make a final decision.
  • Potential Problem Analysis – evaluate the final decision for risk and identify the contingencies and preventive actions necessary to minimize that risk.

Going through each stage of this process will help you come to the "best possible choice", given your knowledge and understanding of the issues that bear on the decision.

How to Use the Tool

The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix is an in-depth approach that can be supported by detailed instruction and worksheets. As an overview of the approach, the following steps show the general principles of how the Kepner-Tregoe approach can apply to a decision-making situation:

1. Prepare a decision statement.

  • This is a general overview of what the decision is expected to achieve (the key objective).
  • The statement should discuss the action that is required and the result that is desired.

2. Establish strategic requirements ("Must Haves").

  • What "musts" will the final decision provide, allow for, include, etc.? For example: we must have 10 percent cost saving, we must include four color choices, the rope must hold 200 lbs.
  • These requirements are absolute – there is no compromise.

3. Establish operational objectives ("Want to Haves").

  • What do you "want" the final decision to support?
  • By identifying the wants you can rank the alternatives according to which ones satisfy the most, or most important, wants.

4. Identify the restraints (Limits).

  • What are the things that will limit your ability to do exactly what you want/need?
  • These are typically resource constraints like money, materials, and time.

5. Rank the operational objectives and assign relative weights.

  • For each "want", assign a rating of 1 – 10 based on the degree of importance.

6. Generate a list of alternatives.

  • Think of as many alternative courses of action as you can. Don't be too concerned that they all meet the "musts" and "wants" you just defined. You will rank these alternatives in the next step.
  • Brainstorming is a good approach for generating your list of alternatives.

7. Assign a relative score for each alternative.

  • First, eliminate any alternatives that do not meet the "musts" – these are not worth considering any further.
  • For the first alternative, go through each objective (want) and rate how well the alternative satisfies it using a 1 – 10 scale.
  • Multiply the weight of the objective by the satisfaction rating to come up with a weighted score for each objective.
  • Add the weighted scores to determine the total weighted score.
  • Repeat the process for each alternative.

8. From the total weighted score for each alternative, rank the top two or three alternatives.

  • Remember to make sure that the alternatives you choose meet all the "must" criteria.

9. For the top alternatives, generate a list of potential problems (adverse effects) for each.

  • Rank the potential problems for each alternative according to probability and significance.
  • Obtain a total weighted score for the adverse effect (adversity rating).

10. Analyze the alternative ranking and the adversity rating and make a final decision.

11. decide on mitigating actions for the chosen alternative..

  • Look at each of the adverse effects already identified and generate a list of proactive responses to reduce the probability of each.
  • Continuously monitor these probabilities and take action as needed.

The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix is a well-respected and systematic approach for making decisions. The matrix process forces users to be well-organized and thorough.

By weighting and ranking both the benefits and risks, it helps you choose the very best alternatives.

Using the Kepner-Tregoe approach requires patience and a commitment: the payoff for the time invested is good, unbiased decision-making that makes good business sense.

[1] Kepner, C. and Tregoe, B. (1965). ' The Rational Manager .' McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Kepner-Tregoe is a trademark of Kepner-Tregoe, Inc. See www.kepner-tregoe.com .

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Kepner Tregoe Method of Problem Solving

Kepner Tregoe method - toolshero

Kepner Tregoe Method of Problem Solving: this article explains the Kepner Tregoe Method , also known as the KT-method , developed by Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe in a practical way. Next to what this is, this article also highlights rational processes, the importance of cause and that this method is effective. After reading, you’ll have a basic understanding of this problem solving process. Enjoy reading!

What is the Kepner Tregoe Method?

Problems occur in any given organization. Often there is pressure of time to solve the problems and it is debatable what the right way of solving these problems is.

The Kepner Tregoe method or KT-method is a problem analysis model in which the “problem” is disconnected from the “decision” . An English synonym for this problem solving method is Problem Solving and Decision Making (PSDM).

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Traditional thinking pattern

The founders Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe developed a rational working method in the 1960s in which they researched and identified the troubleshooting skills of people.

Throughout the centuries mankind has learned to deal with complexity and to (directly) anticipate on this. As a consequence, the traditional thinking pattern became a part of human nature.

When solving problems people search for the answer to the following four questions:

  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How should we act?
  • What will be the (future) result?

Kepner Tregoe method: rational processes

To break through this traditional pattern Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe came up with four rational processes in which four fundamental questions are reflected:

1. Situation analysis

This clarifies the problem situation (what happened).

1.1 Problem analysis

Here the actual cause of the problem and the relationship between cause and result are searched for (why did it happen).

1.2 Decision analysis

Based on the decision making criteria, choices are made to arrive at potential problem resolutions (how should we act).

1.3 Potential Problem analysis

Kepner Tregoe Method Analysis - Toolshero

Figure 1 – Kepner Tregoe Method Analysis

Distinction

According to the KT-method, different tasks involve different problems, which in turn need different approaches. A situation analysis will clarify the distinctions in all these processes and as a result it will be possible to search for suitable solutions. This situation analysis provides an insight into necessity, priority and urgency of the various tasks.

When it has become clear which tasks are to be prioritized (action list) preparations can be made for potential problems. By using a good problem analysis in advance, a process will be created to prevent future problems or in emergencies, to limit the damage.

The strengths of this method does not stop there. Apart from the fact that problems are specified in terms such as “what, where, when and how big”, the Kepner Tregoe Method focuses on anything that cannot be the cause of the problem.

Certain causes are therefore excluded. Based on a “this is” and “this is not” analysis a clear overview of possible causes can be created and this makes the troubleshooting process consistent.

The Kepner Tregoe Method is efficient

The KT-method deploys an efficient troubleshooting process. Through research Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe discovered that the registration of a problem is not a uniform process. In spite of the available information, people usually process information badly, misinterpret this or overlook important matters.

In addition, Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe examined the discrepancies between successful and less successful troubleshooting.

They discovered that a predetermined logical method facilitates the search for the causes of a problem. In their “Best practice in troubleshooting” , they describe this methodology, which forms the basis for this method.

The Kepner Tregoe Method is Effective

This method is universal and is still used today in many organizations to track down problems and identify potential causes. Apart from the fact that the Kepner Tregoe Method leads to an explanation of problems, it also helps improve mutual understanding within an organization.

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It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is the Kepner Tregoe Method applicable in today’s modern organizations? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for the good Kepner Tregoe Method set up?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  • Lussier, R. N.  (2005). Management fundamentals: concepts. applications, skill development . Cengage Learning .
  • Payne, S. L. & Marty, C.S. (1966). The Rational Manager: A Systematic Approach to Problem Solving and Decision Making . Journal of Marketing. Vol. 30 Issue 1, p97.
  • Kepner, C. H. & Tregoe, B. B. (1965). The Rational Manager . McGraw-Hill.

How to cite this article: Mulder, P. (2012). Kepner Tregoe Method . Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/problem-solving/kepner-tregoe-method/

Original publication date: 06/30/2012 | Last update: 12/09/2023

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Patty Mulder

Patty Mulder

Patty Mulder is an Dutch expert on Management Skills, Personal Effectiveness and Business Communication. She is also a Content writer, Business Coach and Company Trainer and lives in the Netherlands (Europe). Note: all her articles are written in Dutch and we translated her articles to English!

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4 responses to “kepner tregoe method of problem solving”.

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I am stunned to read that the Kepner Tregoe Method “…… IS STILL used today in many organizations to track down problems and identify potential causes…..”. I have used it all the time along my career as a manager of organizations, with extreme success. As a tool for identifying problems, as a tool for taking better decisions. So, please, I would appreciate to know what kind of system is being used now instead of an approach like K-T, to have provoked your comment about the existence of an alternative way of thinking.

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Other than KT, I also use the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) Like KT, it forces discipline and analysis and it helps to explain why decisions are made with understandable background and data. Many of the old Total Quality Management tools are also useful for solving problems and making good management decisions. Nominal Group Technique, Pareto Charts, and weighted multivoting are all quite useful. ITIL is the new way of thinking, but it can be rather dry and robotic unless it is underpinned with good decision tools.

kepner tregoe problem solving and decision making workshop

Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience Pete.

' src=

Seems that I naturally deal with problems this way without knowing a name for it. In fact, it seems obvious to me that this approach should be taken anyway.

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Understanding the Kepner-Tregoe Technique - A Guide to Enhanced Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

kepner tregoe problem solving and decision making workshop

In the dynamic world of business, the ability to efficiently solve problems and make decisions is crucial for success. The Kepner-Tregoe technique, developed by Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe, is a structured methodology that aids in the systematic analysis and resolution of problems. This blog post delves into the essence of the Kepner-Tregoe technique, exploring its key components and benefits.

2024 01 06

What is the Kepner-Tregoe Technique?

The Kepner-Tregoe technique is a problem-solving and decision-making framework that provides a systematic approach for identifying, analyzing, and resolving issues. It consists of four main processes:

Problem Analysis : This process involves defining the problem, understanding its nature, and diagnosing the root cause. By distinguishing between what is known and unknown, the problem is clarified, making it easier to identify potential solutions.

Decision Analysis : This step is crucial for making informed decisions. It involves evaluating alternatives against a set of objectives and identifying the risks associated with each option. This helps in selecting the most feasible and beneficial solution.

Potential Problem (or Opportunity) Analysis : Here, the focus shifts to forecasting future issues or opportunities. This proactive approach helps in preparing for potential challenges and capitalizing on opportunities that may arise from the decision made.

Situation Appraisal : This involves assessing the situation to prioritize issues, plan the next steps, and allocate resources effectively. It helps in managing multiple problems or decisions simultaneously.

Benefits of the Kepner-Tregoe Technique

Enhanced Problem-Solving Skills : The technique fosters a deep understanding of the problem, leading to more effective solutions.

Improved Decision-Making : By systematically evaluating alternatives, the technique ensures that decisions are well-informed and aligned with objectives.

Risk Management : It helps in identifying potential risks and prepares organizations to mitigate them effectively.

Efficient Resource Allocation : By prioritizing issues, the technique ensures that resources are used optimally.

Fosters Team Collaboration : The structured approach encourages teamwork and clear communication, making it easier to reach a consensus.

Implementing the Kepner-Tregoe Technique

To effectively implement the Kepner-Tregoe technique, organizations should:

Train Employees : Provide training to develop the necessary skills for applying the technique.

Encourage a Systematic Approach : Foster a culture where problems are approached methodically, using the Kepner-Tregoe processes.

Utilize in Various Scenarios : Apply the technique across different types of problems and decisions to maximize its benefits.

Regularly Review and Refine : Continuously assess the effectiveness of the technique and make adjustments as needed.

The Kepner-Tregoe technique is a powerful tool for organizations seeking to enhance their problem-solving and decision-making capabilities. By providing a structured approach, it not only leads to better outcomes but also promotes a culture of strategic thinking and collaboration. Implementing this technique can be a game-changer for businesses aiming to navigate complexities with greater confidence and efficiency.

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Can You Analyze This Problem?

By: Perrin Stryker

The Kepner-Tregoe approach replaces hit-or-miss methods with a systematic method of problem solving and decision making. Managers who train in this concept of problem analysis often discover that…

  • Length: 6 page(s)
  • Publication Date: May 1, 1965
  • Discipline: Negotiation
  • Product #: 65312-PDF-ENG

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The Kepner-Tregoe approach replaces hit-or-miss methods with a systematic method of problem solving and decision making. Managers who train in this concept of problem analysis often discover that their reasoning methods in handling problems and decisions are faulty. Readers test their own reasoning powers against the problems presented in a case history, based on an actual situation, and can then compare the results of their analysis with the solutions presented in a subsequent article, How to Analyze That Problem (July-August 1965). The main issues of the case involve questions concerning production, labor relations, and personnel.

May 1, 1965

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Negotiation

Harvard Business Review

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kepner tregoe problem solving and decision making workshop

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    Problem Solving & Decision Making 1-6458512 op epner-Trego eserved. 2 Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and Decision Making Prework Introduction The purpose of this pre-workshop information is to prepare you to attend the KT Problem Solving and Decision Making workshop. It includes workshop objectives, a description of the learning process, and

  5. Problem Solving Decision Making

    Workshop Overview KT's Problem Solving & Decision Making for Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPAs) is an FDA-recognized, step-by-step appr... View full details Original price $1,995.00 - Original price $1,995.00

  6. The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

    The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix comprises four basic steps: Situation Appraisal - identify concerns and outline the priorities. Problem Analysis - describe the exact problem or issue by identifying and evaluating the causes. Decision Analysis - identify and evaluate alternatives by performing a risk analysis for each and then make a final decision.

  7. Decision Making for Leaders

    As pioneers of decision science, Kepner-Tregoe has been helping executives, business leaders, and workers at all levels make difficult decisions for over 60 years. This unique, one-day workshop brings that wealth of experience to the classroom so you can learn to avoid decision-making biases, practice new skills, and make an immediate impact ...

  8. Problem Solving Decision Making Workshop

    Kepner-Tregoe online store. Purchase Intro to Problem Solving and KT Refresher eLearning courses with a credit card or your PayPal account. These self-paced courses will introduce you to the world of problem solving or help refresher your KT process skills.

  9. Kepner Tregoe Method of Problem Solving

    Often there is pressure of time to solve the problems and it is debatable what the right way of solving these problems is. The Kepner Tregoe method or KT-method is a problem analysis model in which the "problem" is disconnected from the "decision". An English synonym for this problem solving method is Problem Solving and Decision Making ...

  10. Problem Solving Decision Making Workshop (Virtual)

    Workshop Overview When faced with a problem or decision, you need the right answer—and fast. For over 60 years, KT's Problem Solving & Decision Making workshops have been helping teams and individuals find the root cause of problems faster, make better decisions, manage risk, and prioritize what to work on first. K

  11. Training

    Kepner-Tregoe's Problem Management workshop provides a time-tested, systematic approach to help resolve technical and IT issues and get to root cause fast. ... opportunities and concerns, you need the right answers - and fast. For over 60 years, KT's Problem Solving & Decision Making workshops have been helping teams and individuals think ...

  12. The Kepner-Tregoe Approach: A Step-by-Step Guide to Problem-Solving

    First developed in the 1960s by Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe, the Kepner-Tregoe process is a systematic approach to problem-solving used in a variety of industries, including business and government. The process involves four key steps: situation appraisal, problem analysis, decision analysis, and. potential problem analysis.

  13. Understanding the Kepner-Tregoe Technique

    The Kepner-Tregoe technique is a problem-solving and decision-making framework that provides a systematic approach for identifying, analyzing, and resolving issues. It consists of four main processes: Problem Analysis: This process involves defining the problem, understanding its nature, and diagnosing the root cause. By distinguishing between ...

  14. Can You Analyze This Problem?

    The Kepner-Tregoe approach replaces hit-or-miss methods with a systematic method of problem solving and decision making. Managers who train in this concept of problem analysis often discover that their reasoning methods in handling problems and decisions are faulty. Readers test their own reasoning powers against the problems presented in a case history, based on an actual situation, and can ...

  15. PDF Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving & Decision Making

    our problem Solving & decision making processes - eThink Enterprise extends the power of Kt process throughout an organization. eThink for WorkGroups unites up to 25 people within a department, team, or functional group. eThink Desktop is for individual users working on a personal computer. contact info@kepner-tregoe.

  16. Problem Solving Decision Making

    Workshop Overview When faced with a problem or decision, you need the right answer—and fast. For over 60 years, KT's Problem Solving & Decision Making workshops have been helping teams and individuals find the root cause of problems faster, make better decisions, manage risk, and prioritize what to work on first. K

  17. Problem Solving & Decision Making for CAPA

    KT's Problem Solving & Decision Making for Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPAs) is an FDA-recognized, step-by-step approach to close out deviations with complete, well-documented investigations. Learn to: Cut through the complexity of compliance by setting priorities, troubleshooting issues and taking the most effective and efficient corrective and preventive actions. Learn to control ...

  18. Manila Execon

    For over 50 years, Kepner-Tregoe has worked with the world's leading companies to improve business outcomes. ... For over 60 years, KT's Problem Solving & Decision Making workshops have been helping teams and individuals find the root cause of problems faster, make better decisions, manage risk, and prioritize what to work on first. ...

  19. All about the data: navigating the complexities of the pharmaceutical

    Kepner-Tregoe workshops are held in many major cities throughout the world and are open for enrollment with the option to attend a public or a virtual class at a time that suits your schedule. ... leading to more effective decision-making and improved outcomes. ... Unlock the Power of Problem-Solving: Learn How Our Kepner-Tregoe Training Equips ...