What is a PICK Chart? (Free Template Inside)

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.

What is a PICK chart?

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

Your typical PICK chart is a 2Ö2 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 of the PICK diagram will have a corresponding action:

  • Possible – Low payoff, easy to do
  • Implement – High payoff, 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 project planning. It’s easy to set up, easy to understand, and allows 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 in your PICK analysis.  

  1. “Implement” ideas are generally the ones that should be acted upon.
  2. “Challenge” ideas may still be viable if there’s an easier way to do them.  
  3. “Possibles” should probably only be done if there’s spare time.  
  4. “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 a heck of a lot better than picking ideas based on who shouts the loudest.

PICK Chart Example

To make it easier to understand the PICK model, let’s take a look at a real-life PICK chart example for a project manager. The first step is to set the subject question: what do I need to do to improve my performance? Now let’s get down to identifying our ideas.

In a perfect world, a manager would take two-three offline practical courses. But since none of us have that much time, this idea will go to the “Challenge” board of your PICK chart. Instead, a manager can take one professional course and preferably an online one. This way it will be possible to spend as much time on the course as the manager wants. This idea goes to the “Implement” board.  

The “Possibles” can include interviews with dozens of industry professionals but can be done only if our manager has some free time. The idea of getting an extra degree when our manager already has experience might be a “Kill” one since theoretical knowledge, in this case, is unlikely to help with the performance. As a result, we have the following PICK chart example:

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