Also known as Decision Matrix, Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis and Weighted Criteria Matrix.
Variants include Pugh Matrix and Pairwise Comparison Matrix.
Many real-life decision-making situations have several conflicting criteria that need to be considered at the same time. Traditionally, this is often dealt with by applying trial-and-error methods, or by relying on the experience of people. In such situations, decision makers are required to use prioritization in order to make effective decisions. Prioritization is an essential skill that needs to be mastered by professionals to make the best use of their time and effort.
A Prioritization Matrix is a decision-making method that allows to select the most appropriate alternative after evaluating multiple conflicting criteria. It provides a way to prioritize a list of items into an order of importance in order to select and decide further actions. This might be a project that you need to start, an issue that you need to resolve, or a solution that you need to implement. It can be used for example to prioritize customer needs based on what customers say is important.
A prioritization matrix helps reduce options to the most effective and least costly among the available choices. With good prioritization, you can better make use of time and resources to focus on the things that really matter. And if prioritization is implemented in a team-based manner, it helps the team to agree on the priorities and move toward the action collectively.
Developing a list of evaluation criteria is the first step before prioritizing your alternatives. These criteria represent the standards by which the different alternatives can be measured and compared. They will provide an objective and consistent basis for comparison. Brainstorming, affinity diagrams and voting can be used to generate, organize and reduce the evaluation criteria. It is important when developing the evaluation criteria to ensure that costs, benefits and risks are taken into account.
After having an agreement on the evaluation criteria, you then need to weight the criteria according to importance as perceived by the team and other stakeholders. For example, when hiring a new employee, skills may weigh less than experience as it is considered by the recruitment team to be less important. The simplest way to weight the evaluation criteria is by allowing the team members to distribute a certain number of points (say 100) between the selected criteria.
The prioritization matrix template can then be used to list all criteria against the alternatives, attach weights to the criteria, and conduct the prioritization exercise. You may use one of the four different formats to conduct your prioritization analysis.
Conducting a Prioritization Exercise
The following steps describe how to conduct a prioritization exercise in a team setting:
- Explain the purpose for constructing the prioritization matrix.
- Identify and agree on the alternatives that need to be prioritized.
- Ensure that the evaluation criteria and their weights are agreed by all.
- Facilitate the prioritization session by allowing each team member to rank the alternatives against each criteria from best to worst.
- Collect the team’s rank scores, average and add them up on one worksheet.
- Calculate the final weighted scores for each alternative.
- Sort the items by their ranks to make them clearer for communication and decision making.
This example illustrates a prioritization analysis that was conducted to select the most efficient data collection method at a workplace. Note that high score of cost doesn’t mean that the cost is high, but low or “cost-effective”.
A manufacturing company needs to select two projects to be implemented this year. Consider the following project options and criteria:
It was agreed that ‘savings’ should be given a weight of 3 as it is relatively more important than the other two criteria. In the example below, the team has used the prioritization matrix to select the most profitable among the five candidate projects.
If you have only two evaluation criteria, you can present the alternatives in a four field matrix.
There are many tools that can help you to conduct a prioritization analysis. One of the simplest ways is to use this template.
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