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A perceptual map works well when the PowerBall approach is not robust enough, yet many of your attributes and criteria remain fuzzy and subjective.  Thus we are able to help a team compare and prioritize its options using a rich visual display, called a perceptual map, that provides visual support (in a directional manner) of your optimal and sub-optimal options.

Facilitate Consensual Prioritization Using a Perceptual Map

Illustrative Perceptual Map on Customer Loyalty


Rationale for a Perceptual Map

With a perceptual map we can also expand our understanding of the options, since there is likely more than one right answer.  By locating the options we stimulate discussion and solicit the rationale for placement.  Analysis provides insight about which options may demand more or less urgent attention and care.

Method One for a Perceptual Map

After you have helped the team build their options (eg, actions to take), consider arraying them along a perceptual map. One version called a Payoff Matrix dimensions includes: 1) Ease of implementation, and 2) Impact of the solution.

  • If you have dozens of options, consider using a large white board.
  • You should use Post-It® notes because discussion will lead to moving around (relocating) some of the options.
  • Be careful to know how to illustrate and define “High” and “Low” and to the extent possible, draw from your personal metaphor or analogy (Agenda discussion point in the MG RUSH curriculum).
  • Use active listening and challenge frequently to discover evidence that can be used to support beliefs and claims. Enlighten all participants as to which conditions are required to support the arguments.
  • Modify the “Two-by-Two” illustration below by adding a moderate dimension, making it what others call a “Nine-Block Diagram” (or “9 Block Diagram”) shown at the bottom.
  • In Six Sigma, comparisons are made of the CTQs (Critical to Quality) with the improvement or weighting factors.

An Illustrative Perceptual Map and Generic Payoff Matrix


Method Two for a Perceptual Map

You can also facilitate building a perceptual map by creating the following nine-block:

  • Identify two dimensions that most affect the decision or situation.
  • Typically array from low to high but be prepared to define what is meant by “Low” or “High” (see PowerBalls).
  • If you need to use a third dimension, such as quantity, consider varying your symbols or notes. Change the size of the Post-It notes so that width, height, or shape equates to the third dimension.
  • Consider using different colored Post-It notes that relate to a third or fourth dimension such as large, medium, and small.
  • The alternative shown next is the Nine-Block Diagram that provides an additional, third sector of information contrasted to the Two-by-Two up above.
A Nine-Block Perceptual Map

A Nine-Block Perceptual Map


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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