The prioritization matrix is a great tool, but it does not seem to be used as much as it could be. The reason is probably because it takes a lot of time to do manually, and it can be confusing. To make the tool more usable, this article is accompanied by an automated template in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.
The prioritization matrix, also know as the criteria matrix, is used to compare choices relative to criteria like price, service, ease of use and almost any other factor desired.
While this tool can be used effectively by an individual, it is great for helping Six Sigma project teams with decision making. The “seven management and planning tools” was taught to many by Michael Brassard, who wrote The Memory Jogger II in 1994. In his book, he said the prioritization matrix is said to:
- Quickly surface basic disagreements so that they may be resolved up front.
- Force a team to focus on the best things to do, not everything they could do, dramatically increasing the chances for implementation success.
- Limit hidden agendas by surfacing the criteria as a necessary part of the process.
- Increase the chance of follow-through because consensus is sought at each step in the process (from criteria to conclusions).
- Reduce the chances of selecting someone’s pet project.
Within the Six Sigma methodology, there are several places where this tool is just made for the job – from selecting projects, to determining which measurement instrument to use, to control the new processes. This tool can be useful in resolving the tradeoffs necessary in product and service design like those indicated in the “roof” of the quality function deployment house of quality. The tool is used extensively in making business decisions and in facilitating teams. (The author has even used it in choosing a house – comparing prices, numbers of rooms, garage sizes and locations.)
On the prioritization matrix Excel spreadsheet, up to nine criteria can be entered, but the number of criteria can be expanded if necessary. Importantly, the spreadsheet allows weights to be assigned to the criteria since not all criteria are of equal importance.
The example used in the explanation of the matrix is from on a fictitious project to evaluate and choose knowledge management software. Here is a step-by-step outline of how the matrix is used:
Step 1: Open the Excel spreadsheet. Enter each of the criteria for judging a product or process on a separate line in the first column of initial gray box titled “criteria weight” (Figure 1), replacing existing criteria (or criteria #) with the new criteria. The criteria entered automatically will be placed in all the following comparison matrices, the summary matrix and the selection graph.
Step 2: Compare the first criteria to each of the others by choosing the most appropriate value from the values chart (Figure 2) and putting it in the matrix. (Note: Clicking on the “values” window will allow it to be dragged out of the way and repositioned to any location on the spreadsheet. Teams need this reference, particularly at first, to remind them of the evaluation description and its value.)
In the example, the first comparison is between “little to no customization necessary” and “service costs.” The number 0.20 was entered, which indicates the team’s evaluation was that little need for customization to be of “less value” than service costs. The matrix automatically enters the reciprocal of less value, which obviously is “more value,” or the number 5.00, in the appropriate place on the service costs line.
Continue the process by comparing the first criteria with each other criteria on the list. Then repeat the process for the criteria on the second, third, fourth, etc. lines, comparing them to the criteria not yet compared. Only put a value in the solid gray areas; the reciprocal value will be calculated and inserted in the light gray areas automatically.
Step 3: Enter each of the products or processes being evaluated on a separate line in the first column of the second gray box (Figure 3). The entries automatically will be placed in all the other comparison matrices, the summary matrix and the summary graph.
Step 4: Now, compare the choices to one another considering each criteria. The team should use the same values that were used to compare the criteria, or characteristics, one to another. In the example, the “MicroLog” product was rated by the team as “much more value” (10.00) than the “EMG” product in terms of little need for customization. Consequently the reciprocal value, or 0.10, was automatically entered for the EMG offering. Again, the team need only put a value in the solid gray areas; the reciprocal values automatically will be calculated for the light gray areas.
Step 5: After all the entries are made, results can be read in the summary matrix (Figure 4) and the selection graph (Figure 5).