Conflict Resolution using Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP)
by Douglas C. Gilman, P.E.,
VDOT State Pavement Management Engineer
What do you do when you have a complex decision to make on an issue that isn’t easy to measure? One method to assist in making these decisions is the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP).
AHP is a powerful and flexible decision-making process that helps people set priorities and make the best decision, by considering the measurable aspects of a decision. The decision is then based on evaluation measures that are both opinion based and actually quantified.
AHP is a way of choosing or narrowing the field of choice, a similar concept is performing a Gap Analysis. AHP was designed to reflect the way people actually think. For example, when we begin to analyze contributing and influencing elements of a decision, there are usually common characteristics identified, allowing us to cluster and eventually prioritize the elements.
The resulting elements are prioritized using a simple scoring system. However, it should be noted that as the number of elements grows, this process becomes more and more tedious, therefore the smaller the grouping of elements the better. The process does not involve complex math. In fact, it reduces complex decisions to a series of “pairwise” comparisons of the contributing and influencing elements, which are then scored using matrix algebra and weighting. A simplified example is included to the right.
The process not only helps decision makers arrive at the priority decision, but also provides a clear understanding that it is the best. It is very effective as a team decision-making process because it addresses such issues as lack of group focus, planning, participation, or ownership. As we all know, each of these distractions can prevent teams from making the correct choices.
There are multiple resources available to explain “how” AHP is performed. I encourage you to start with ASTM E1765-02.