Prioritization Using Swap Sorting

Prioritizing a list of objectives can be difficult when you’re the only decision maker. It is much hard when doing it in a team. Using a technique like the ‘Swap Sort’ can help put some structure around decision making- something often needed to move things forward.

Getting Started

After brainstorming objectives with the team, work to get concensus on a short list. Use quick polling of the group to get a rough ordering of the priorities in order to speed up the final result. Before moving on to the final ordering, get concensus on the criteria for setting the priorities.

You can use Post-It Notes to capture the list of objectives and do the swap sorting. Better yet…

Swap Sort with a Mind Map

Capture the objective list in a mindmap, along with a note to remind everyone of the criteria for prioritization.

Initial List
Initial list

Swap sorting is a simple process:

  • Start with the first two items in the list and swap their order if  required by the prioritization criteria.
  • Move to the next two items and repeat.
  • Continue until reaching the end of the list.
  • If any items were swapped, repeat the entire process until no further swaps are required.

Really simple, but it can help break through disagreement and move the team forward.

In the following example, after selecting a node the CTRL+UpArrow or CTRL+DownArrow shortcuts were used to quickly do the swap.

First swap
First swap
Second swap
Second swap
Third swap
Third swap (start 2nd pass through list)
Final swap
Final swap

Give it a try if you get stuck!

  • emik

    clasic – bubblesort
    if I feel the item is not so important I will move it more then swap only.
    I suggest: Pass through sequence and for each decide which first places to move on.