Analytic Hierarchy Process/Addendum

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This addendum is a continuation of the article Analytic Hierarchy Process.

More about Hierarchies

The best way to understand AHP hierarchies is to work with them in the real world. But the extensive literature on AHP includes some works that discuss the subject in depth. Some of them are listed below.

Decision Making for Leaders.[1] Chapter 3 of this book includes eight pages of information on Analyzing and Structuring Hierarchies in AHP. It is written at the level of college business classes, and intended for practicing decision makers. The chapter's key points are:

  • In an AHP hierarchy, complex problems are split into their component parts according to their essential relationships.
  • The top level of the hierarchy has only one element—the goal. The other levels usually contain between five and nine elements each.
  • There is no limit to the number of levels.
  • When the elements of a level cannot be easily compared, a new level with finer distinctions should be created.
  • Hierarchies can be altered during the course of the process.

Chapter 4 of the same book discusses 32 hierarchies that have been used with the Analytic Hierarchy Process. They include hierarchies for business decisions, personal and domestic decisions, public policy decisions, planning economic policies, estimating and predicting, and measuring influences. Some of the hierarchies are shown below. You can access a copy of the hierarchy by clicking on its name:

Fundamentals of Decision Making and Priority Theory.[2] This book is more advanced than the previous one, but much of it can be understood by nonspecialists. Chapter 4 is a 35-page advanced discussion of AHP hierarchies and hierarchical synthesis. Chapter 10 gives the mathematical definition of a hierarchy.

The Hierarchon.[3] This is a dictionary of over 400 decision problems in government and the private sector, structured as hierarchical decision models. It serves as a stimulus and a source of ideas to help in structuring decision problems as hierarchies.


  1. Saaty, Thomas L. (1999-05-01). Decision Making for Leaders: The Analytic Hierarchy Process for Decisions in a Complex World. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: RWS Publications. ISBN 0-9620317-8-X. 
  2. Saaty, Thomas L. (2000-06-01). Fundamentals of Decision Making and Priority Theory with the Analytic Hierarchy Process. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: RWS Publications. ISBN 0-9620317-6-3. 
  3. Saaty, Thomas L. (1992-06-01). The Hierarchon: A Dictionary of Hierarchies. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: RWS Publications. ISBN 0-9620317-5-5.