# Paired Comparison Analysis

Understanding priority is an important part of making good decisions. Even if you don’t think about it consciously at the time, it makes sense – you are making your choices in most cases based on the underlying priorities that you have in mind.

Of course, the priority in business is often to make money, but that isn’t always the case. Or, at least, that isn’t always the guiding light for the decisions you need to make. So how do you make a decision when you aren’t exactly sure where your priorities lie? The Paired Comparison Analysis model is a great way to make tough choices that have many complexities to consider.

One of the nice things about using this model is the fact that it actually helps you in a variety of ways. Yes, it can help you to settle on your priorities as you are going through the process of making a decision.

However, it can also help you to compare options that really don’t seem to have much in common at all. These are often some of the most difficult decisions of all – the ones that have to be made when the options at hand don’t seem to be related. If that is the case for you in an upcoming decision, try putting the Paired Comparison Analysis system to work.

## Creating a Table

To use this model, you are first going to need to create a table. That table is going to be made up of all of the various options you have in front of you. List your options out on a sheet of paper, and make sure you include everything you see as a viable choice moving forward. Once you have those options, you are going to use them to make up both the columns and rows of your table. Since you are going to be comparing these options to each other, you will need to use the same order in both the rows (from top to bottom) and columns (from left to right). To make things easier, you may want to assign each of your options to a letter – making the entire table easier to read.

Before getting started, you will want to block out the cells that are going to compare an option to itself, as well as the cells that are duplications. For instance, you obviously only need to compare option ‘B’ to option ‘C’ once, so block out the other spot where these options meet. When completed, you should have a nicely organized table that is ready for you to make some choices and input some data.

## Filling It Out

With your chart finished, it is now up to you to think through all of the options and insert your conclusions to the table. The idea here is that you are going to compare each option to each other option, and you are going to declare a ‘winner’ in each case. Also, you are going to give the winner a score, depending on how convicted you are in the fact that the chosen option is the more important one. The scoring scale that you choose is up to you, but something like a scale from 0-3 or 0-5 is appropriate. It is important to include the option to provide a zero score, as that is the number you will use when two options are viewed as equals.

To highlight how this works, let’s walk through an example quickly. If you have a table with only three options, A – C, you will need to do just three comparisons. You will have to compare A to B, A to C, and B to C.

In the first comparison, you decide that A is significantly more important than B, so you score that cell an A-3 (on a scale of 0-3). You then decide that A is also more important than C, but just barely – so you score that cell an A-1. Finally, you rate option C as being moderately more important than B with a score of C-2. You have now filled out your (small) table and you can look at the results.

## Evaluating the Results

With all of the cells filled in, you can total up the scores to see which option came out as the most important in the table. For our small and simple example, the scores would be as follows –

A – 4

B – 0

C – 2

As you can see, option A is the clear winner in this case. Of a six total points that were awarded, A has earned four of the points, or 66%. Option C has 33% of the points, and option B has 0% of the points. If you are going to stick with the results of this analysis as you decide which option to take moving forward, you will opt for choice A rather clearly. When the time comes to pick between B and C, you will likely go for C, again due to the results of this exercise.

Of course, your charts are likely to be far more extensive than our basic example, but the idea is the same. Using this kind of comparison chart, you can see how various options stack up against each other in a convenient, visual manner. Once you see the options in front of you, and you have the chance to weigh them head to head, you may find that making your decisions is not as difficult as you originally believed.

It is important to remember that this tool, while helpful, does not have to be the final word in your decision making. It is just a tool that you can use in the process, and the conclusions that it reaches should not always be viewed as a conclusive decision. You need to think logically about what the table is telling you, along with trusting your own instincts and experience, before making and implementing your choices.

#### Key Points

• Paired Comparison Analysis is a good way of weighing up the relative importance of conflicting criteria.
• It can be used when priorities are not clear, or are competing in importance. There are 6 steps in this technique:
• Step 1: List the options to be compared as rows and columns in a table.
• Step 2: Assign a letter to each option.
• Step 3: Block out cells on the table where you will be comparing an option with itself.
• Step 4: Within the remaining cells compare the option in the row with the one in the column and write down the letter of the more important option in the cell.
• Step 5: Score the difference in importance from 0 (no difference) to 3 or 5 (major difference).
• Step 6: Consolidate the results by adding up the total of all the values for each of the options.
• Paired Comparison Analysis helps you to set priorities where there are conflicting demands on your resources.

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