The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP)

Choosing by Weighing Up Many Subjective Factors

The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP)

Getting out of the maze – in a complex way.

© iStockphoto

How do you make a choice in a complex, subjective situation with more than a few realistic options?

You could sit and think over each option, hoping for divine inspiration – but you may end up more confused than when you started.

You could leave it to fate – draw straws or pick a number.

Of course, this won't win you the Decision Maker of the Year award!

An all-too-common strategy is to simply wait out the problem, doing nothing proactively, until a solution is somehow chosen for you by circumstances.

None of these approaches are very effective. What you need is a systematic, organized way to evaluate your choices and figure out which one offers the best solution to your problem.

As rational beings, we usually like to quantify variables and options to make objective decisions. However, the problem is that not all criteria are easy to measure.

So what do you do when you're faced with a decision that needs significant personal judgment and subjective evaluation? How do you avoid getting caught in the "thinking over" stage? And how can you be more objective?

Combining Qualitative and Quantitative

To address this problem, Thomas Saaty created the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) in the 1970s. This system is useful because it combines two approaches

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