Project Management 101: What is a PICK Chart?

Have you ever had a number of options available to you, but couldn’t decide which one worked best? I’m not talking about trivial decisions like what’s for lunch, or what TV show to watch. I’m talking about the significant, far-reaching choices you make as a project manager: which issue to tackle first, for example, or which project to prioritize.

Consider using a PICK chart.

Project Management 101: What is a PICK Chart?

What is it?

The PICK chart is a Lean Six Sigma tool that was first developed by Lockheed Martin for lean production. Its original purpose was for organizing ideas for process improvement and categorizing them for easy review and analysis.

Your typical PICK chart is a 2×2 matrix, with the horizontal scale measuring the benefits, and the vertical scale measuring the difficulty. You evaluate a project or idea and place it in the most appropriate of the four available squares. Each square will have a corresponding action:

  • Possible – Low payoff, easy to do
  • Implement – High pay off, easy to do
  • Challenge – High payoff, hard to do
  • Kill – Low payoff, hard to do

How do I use it?

PICK charts are great for brainstorming and planning sessions. It’s easy to set up, easy to understand, and allow project managers to focus the discussion and achieve a consensus.

Once you’ve sorted out your options, you now have a better idea of what should be done next. “Implement” ideas are generally the ones that should be acted upon, but the “Challenge” ideas may still be viable if there’s an easier way to do them. “Possibles” should probably only be done if there’s spare time. “Kill” ideas are normally dismissed outright, but there are some who say that “Kill” ideas should be reviewed and revised into something more accomplishable.

The beauty of the PICK chart is that it can be used anywhere, no matter what your team or business is. So the next time you’re evaluating ideas, try out the PICK chart and see if it works for you. It’s heck of a lot better than picking ideas based on who shouts the loudest.

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