The Bolles priorities grid – compare, compare, compare …

What is the Bolles priority grid?


There are many ways and tools for setting priorities. It all depends on what we are aiming for, whether we are considering a new investment or whether we strive for better self-organization.

This post will talk about a very interesting tool – a grid of priorities that is applicable both in business and in private life.

The priority grid (or the priority matrix) proposed by Richard Nelson Bolles is a tool that is just right for those who struggle with the choice between multiple options, different options. Thanks to it, you can determine the validity of individual features, options or skills.
The grid of the priorities of R. N. Bolles
At first glance, the matrix looks complicated, but in practice is quite pleasant to use. In a nutshell – this approach compares all the indicated options with each other, and the one that was chosen most often is the highest priority.

Priority grid – step by step


How is the Bolles matrix constructed?


It consists of 4 elements, sections from A to D.



Section A




In “section A”, put all the features, characteristics, skills, etc. – what you want to compare. It does not matter the order in which you enter this data into the table, at this stage are not prioritized.

The matrix is constructed in such a way that only two values from the list from “section A” will be compared with each other.



Section B





The next area of the priority grid to be discussed is “section B”. This is where one of two specific options is selected.

In each square of “section B” there are two digits that correspond to specific characteristics entered in “section A”. What you should do now is choose one more important feature for us and mark on the grid, for example, a circle.

In this way you have to go through all the squares of this area. During the assessment, follow “diagonally”, i.e. first evaluate 1 of 2, 2 of 3, 3 of 4, 4 of 5, … 9 of 10, then 1 of 3, 2 of 4, 3 of 5, 4 from 6, … 8 out of 10, etc. until you reach the rating of 1 out of 10.

I present it in a pictorial picture below.





Section C




“Section C” is a table with three lines, in which all the choices from the previous stage are combined.

The first row can be completed automatically with the numbers of individual variants from “section A”.

In the second row, you enter the number of times you selected the option more important in “section B”.

For example, in a duel 3 out of 5 won 5, 5 out of 7 also 5, and in a duel 5 out of 10 also 5. This means that the 5th (more precisely some feature written under this number) was chosen as more important in three cases. In the second row of the “C-section” table under the 5th, you should enter the number 3, because you have “won” this feature many times compared to the other one.

After completing the entire second row of the table, it may turn out that some of the characteristics were chosen the same often, have the same result.

Bolles advises in this case to go back to section B and look carefully at the comparisons in which the characteristics with the same number of choices take part.

Specifically, if in the table in the “C section” the characteristics stored under numbers 3 and 7 have 3 won matches for comparisons, then we return to “section B” and find a match 3 out of 7. We check which option won in this match and we assign its additional points – 0.5 point.

Repeat this procedure for all draws 🙂

If more than two options were selected the same number of times, there is a deadlock. At some stage of the assessment in “section B” in a sense you deny yourself, because once you decide on one option, once on another.

In this case, it remains to look at all the options that obtained the same result and prioritize them.

For example, variants 3, 5, 7 and 8 have been chosen the same number of times. You decide which option is the most important and which is the least important and also allocate additional points. Let us assume that the order of priorities is – 5, 8, 7 and 3. You assign additional points: for 5 – 4/5 point, for 8 – 3/5 point, for 7 – 2/5 point and finally for 3 – 1 / 5 point. In this way, none of the options will eventually have the same number of points.

The last, third line of the “C-section” table remains to be discussed. You can already guess that a summary of the priority grid is prepared on the basis of this line.

Here you should enter the numbers of the characteristics, which in turn have won the highest number of points (points are values ​​in the second row of the table).


Section D





“Section D” is the last element of the Balles priority grid. This is just a priority list created on the basis of the third row of the “C-section” table. Priorities are ranked from the most important to the least important.

On this basis, we can confidently make decisions and actions.

Below is an example of how to supplement the Bolles priority grid.




How to complete the “C section”?



Well, the first step – enter the numbers of options / characteristics that were compared (from 1 to 10) – those from “section A”.

Now it’s time to calculate … or supplement the second row.

Calculate all values marked in yellow and rank them accordingly under the corresponding numbers of the characteristics from the first row. How many 1 “won in duels in” section B “? – 6. This value should be entered under 1 from the first row. The double won 5 times, three times – 4 times, etc.

Result below:




The result is not entirely satisfying, because there are options that got a draw – that is, they were chosen the same often.

It remains to apply to Bolles’s proposal to prioritize individual options, as described above.

At the beginning I check the duel 1 out of 5 (because two options have 6 points each). In this match she won 5, so she receives an additional 0.5 points. Option 5 has a total of 6.5 points, and option 1 – 6 points.

The next options that have the same number of votes are 2, 4 and 8 – all scored 5 points. A tripartite tie means that we ourselves prioritize ourselves as to the validity of the individual options, and we assign in turn 3/4, 1/2 and 1/4 points.

According to my subjective assessment, the priorities are as follows: option number 4 is the most important – it receives a total of 5.75 points (5 and 3/4 points), then option number 2 – hence receives a total of 5.5 points (5 and 1/2 point). The least important of these three specific variants is option number 8, which receives a total of 5.25 points (ie 5 and 1/4 points).

The same course of action is in case of options 3, 6 and 9. The order which I choose from the most important option to the least important is 9, 6, 3 and these characteristics receive additionally 3/4, 1/2 and 1/4 points respectively.

At the end, the same number of points for options 7 and 10 remains (they have 3 points each).

You have to find a duel 7 out of 10 in “section B” – option 10 won in this fight, which is why it receives an additional 0.5 points.

In this way, we get the values ​​in the second row of the “C-section” table.



All that remains is to complete the third row of the “C-section” table. It is about arranging the option numbers from the first row, from the one with the highest number of points – to the one that received the least.



Are you interested in this tool? Do you want to receive an electronic version of the Bolles priority grid for 10 and 24 options?

Let me know in a comment or leave a message to me and I will provide you with additional materials



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