Not everything is important. For this reason, we need to prioritize so that we can channel energies and resources in the most prudent way.
The Prioritization Matrix is a simple tool that provides a way of sorting a diverse set of items into an order of importance. It also enables their relative importance to be identified by deriving a numerical value of the importance of each item. Which means that an item with a score of 344 is clearly higher in importance than an item with a score of 133.
There are many types of prioritization matrices, such as Quality Function Deployment, etc. Today, I’ll be covering the most practical and simple way to prioritize amongst many variables.
When to use a Prioritization Matrix
- Use it to prioritize complex or unclear issues, where there are multiple criteria for deciding importance.
- Use it when there is data available to help score criteria and issues.
- Use it to help select items to be actioned from a larger list of possible items.
- When used with a group, it will help to gain agreement on priorities and key issues.
- Use it, rather than simple Voting, when the extra effort that is required to find a more confident selection is considered to be worthwhile.
How to use a Prioritization Matrix
- Identify the overall objective. For example, ‘Increase the profitability of the x, y, z product line.
- Gather the people who are to work on the problem. They should, between them, understand the problem area and how items on the list may be judged.
- Produce the list of items to be prioritized. This may be done using other tools, such as Brainstorming or Surveys.
- Identify a list of criteria which may be used to judge how well each item on the list from step 3 serves the objective from step 1.
- Approaches to identifying criteria may include:
- Analyze the statement of objectives (e.g. What are the components of profit?).
- Identify practical constraints (e.g. How easy is it to do?).
- Consider the benefits, costs and risks.
- Aim for criteria that can be measured objectively and easily, rather than subjectively or with difficulty.
- Word the criteria such that it is clear that agreeing with them is desirable. Thus use ‘Low cost of ownership’, rather than ‘Ownership cost’.
- Allocate a weighting number to each criterion to show their relative importance in achieving the overall objective. Thus a criterion with a number of 4 is twice as important as one with a number of 2. In general, these weights are arbitrary but should give you a sense of “gravity”.
- When allocating numbers in a group, if consensus cannot be reached, give each person the same number of points to spread amongst the criteria or use some other Voting method.
- Select the actual criteria to use against the list items to be prioritized. This may be done by:
- Rejecting criteria which have an importance number which is much lower than others.
- Reducing the number of criteria to a small and manageable number, typically around three, by selecting those with the highest importance number.
- Define how the list items from step 3 will be scored against each of the criteria identified in step 6. Approaches to consider include:
- Have a limited set of possible score values, with associated text to describe what they mean. Thus a score of 4 may mean ‘item strongly supports the criterion.
- Use a Voting system, as in step 5, where each person has a fixed number of points to distribute across items.
- Use negative scores for negative effects. An example is where the criterion is ‘reduces manufacturing cost’, but the list item actually increases manufacturing cost.
- Use a percentage scale either for direct scoring or to convert the final score into a percentage. This makes it easier to deduce information, for example if one item has a score of 64%, it is clear that all other scores against this criterion total only 36%.
- Score each item against each criterion, using the method identified in step 7.
- If actual numerical values are available for these comparisons, translate the values into the same score range as identified in step 7. For example, if actual costs are available, but the scoring system uses a total of 100, then divide each cost by the total of all costs and multiply by 100.
- Multiply each score from step 8 by the number allocated to the appropriate criterion in step 5 to get the weighted score for each item against each criterion, as in the figure below.
- For each item, add up all of the weighted scores from step 8. This gives the final prioritizing score for each item. The scores may left as they are or converted to percentage values.
- The final list of prioritized items may be made clearer for communication and decision making by sorting it into priority order and displaying it in a Pareto Chart.
Feel free to download a free prioritization matrix. Click on the button below to get your own copy you can customize for your organization.