Have you ever needed to prioritize a long list of items? It can be daunting. When faced with a large number of items, or a number of closely valued items, prioritizing them can be difficult. This article will show you a simple technique for prioritizing these types of lists. The technique is referred to as Paired Comparison Analysis.

What it is

In Paired Comparison Analysis you compare each item in your list to every other item. As you make this comparison, indicate which item is more important. This simplifies the task by asking you to think about two items at a time, rather than all items. After comparing each pair of items, you simply count the number of times each item was more important and create your prioritized list.

How it Works

Perform these steps to do a Paired Comparison Analysis:

  1. Create the list of items to be prioritized.
  2. Assign a letter to each item.
  3. Draw a grid with the same number of columns and rows as there are items.
  4. Black out one half of the grid.
  5. In each cell of the grid place the letter of the more important item.
  6. Score each list item by adding up the total number of occurrences of each letter.
  7. Organize your revised list from highest scoring to lowest scoring item.

An Example

The example below illustrates how to perform a Paired Comparison Analysis. In this example, Pat wants to prioritize a list of business tasks.

First, Pat creates the list of items below.

  • Update web site
  • Expand markets
  • Negotiate supplier contract
  • Research products

Then Pat assigns each item a letter.

  1. Update web site
  2. Expand markets
  3. Negotiate supplier contract
  4. Research products

Once the letters are assigned, Pat creates a grid with the items as both the column and row headings. As shown below.

Step Three

The next step is for Pat to black out the cells in the grid that are not needed for the comparison.

Step Four

Once the grid is ready, Pat can compare each pair of items and indicate in the more important item of each pairing.

Step Five

Once the pairs have been compared, Pat scores the items by counting the number of times each item outranked another. In this example the scores are:

Update web site (1)
Expand markets (2)
Negotiate supplier contract (3)
Research products (0)

    Finally, Pat uses the scores to create the prioritized list, as follows:

    1. Negotiate supplier contract        
    2. Expand markets                                              
    3. Update web site
    4. Research products


    This technique can be used for any number of items. Because you only have to worry about two items at a time, prioritizing the list becomes easier.