What is stack ranking?
A stack ranking is a system used to evaluate and compare different items, projects, ideas (or choice options in general) by ranking them from the most important choice option to the least important choice option. The goal is to identify the top choice options, e.g., most significant ideas or projects with the uppermost potential within a business.
Typically this is done within a company department or a team to take a decision on what should be done in the next month or next quarter and to set the priorities accordingly.
What are the benefits of stack ranking?
There are numerous great benefits due to which stack ranking is often used for a wide range of purposes.
The most important one is that it gives you a clearly ranked list, in which each choice options has a unique rank. This makes it ideal for creating lists of priorities, especially when it’s hard to decide what should be more important because you can never have two items of the same priority in your ranked list.
Secondly, the system is quite effortless to perform. In the simplest variant, you just compare each of your choice options with each other in a direct comparison, also called pairwise comparison. Due to comparing items for evaluating relative importance, stack ranking comes with another benefit: it works very well in situations in which you have only limited information available about each of your choice options because doing the previously described process works without bringing in any additional data.
Can stack ranking be used for decision making?
Stack ranking is a good decision-making tool because you compare options side-by-side and you are ultimately forced to make a choice between them to establish relative importance. Thereby, it also helps you to gain clarity about the reasons for your priorities ("I know X is important, but the reason I am not working on it is that Y is more important right now.").
When used for making decisions in a group of people, it can help to foster discussion and spot misunderstandings about priorities, projects or ideas: as soon as you have created a ranked list of items in which each item is more important than another, it is very easy for people to spot wrongly prioritized items and discuss if an item has an appropriate priority or if there are good reasons why an item should be less or more important.
Using it thereby helps to make better decisions and to reach an agreement within a group faster.
Is it possible to do stack ranking as a group of people, e.g. in a team?
Yes. To stack rank items together in a group of people, you can do the process together and openly discuss and decide which item you think is more important than another item.
An even better variant is to have every person making an individual ranking of all items. After everyone does a stack ranking, you need to calculate the group result. To calculate the overall result: if you choose to do a pairwise comparison, you need to count how often each item from your list of choice options has won in a direct comparison across your whole group. Then you use this overall count to rank the items in order.
What does a stack ranking tool do?
A stack ranking tool helps you to easily prioritize a list of items, compare different options, and assess the relative importance of items with a few clicks. It lets you rank items on your own or together with other people so that you can create colleborative rankings for a group of people. Thereby it helps you to make decisions for yourself or together as a group of people, e.g.,: finding the most important project to work on, finding the best logo for a business, deciding the best domain name, doing risk assessments, and many other use cases.
Some ranking tools allow ranking items by doing a pairwise comparison. They work by showing you pairs of your items and forcing you to decide for one item of the presented pair. A good tool will also employ statistically optimized algorithms to pre-calculate the ranking of your items even before you evaluated all possible pairs.
Does a stack ranking tool have advantages over a ranking spreadsheet?
Yes, a tool gives you many advantages over sheets. While many great spreadsheets exist, pre-created stack ranking spreadsheets and templates for excel can almost never be used immediately because it takes multiple hours to adjust them towards your needs, especially if they are not made for the exact number of choice options that you want to rank.
This is especially problematic if they use pairwise comparison as variant. Because even if you manage to adjust a template towards your needs, doing a pairwise comparison works only properly, if you use the sheet to evaluate a maximum of about 5 choice options. If you have more choice options, the complexity of your spreadsheet gets very high. Adding more choice options or modifying the formula to calculate a ranking score gets an error-prone task because you need to make sure that your formula considers all columns and rows correctly (if you already tried to model this in a spreadsheet you know how cumbersome it is).
Spreadsheets also lack flexible sharing options and data privacy issues: you cannot invite people into a stack ranking sheet without revealing existing results to them. Since people will see all the results, they will be biased the moment they start to do the ranking whereby you will not get their real opinion.
How do you rank items if multiple criteria are important?
If you cannot decide whether one of your choice options is better than the other one, because each of them has an advantage over the other with regard to a specific criterion, you need to do multiple comparisons of the choice options. For example: if you have choice options and want to consider the criteria ‘less cost’ and ‘better performance’ for your ranking, you need to do a pairwise comparison for ‘less cost’ and then a pairwise comparison for ‘better performance’. Using Prioneer you can do rankings with multiple criteria and see which of your choice options is the best one in total and the best one in each criteria.
How long does it take to stack rank items using pairwise comparison?
In general, doing a pairwise comparison is quick, but doing it manually can take a long time because of the high count of possible item pairs. Often you can speed up the process by starting to compare a few pairs, e.g. 10 pairs, and then checking if you have a transitive relation between the winning items.
For example: if you evaluate item A being better than item B, and item B better than item C, then you don’t necessarily need to compare item A with item B because they have a transitive relation, making A effectively better than item C. Starting from there, you can compare only items that have no relation yet and then repeating checking for transitive relations after a few more pairs. Doing this manually or in a spreadsheet can be quite cumbersome, because the transitive relations might change each time you pair compare another pair of items.
Using Prioneer, stack ranking is fast because Prioneer automatically does the calculation of transitive relations for you, whereby you can save hours of work and rank over 100 items just within a few minutes.
What makes Prioneer’s stack ranking so special?
Prioneer is probably the easiest tool to do a stack ranking. You can generate a clearly ranked list only within minutes by using the pairwise comparison method or using a custom decision matrix. Our unique ranking precalculation algorithm helps you to rank over 100 items just within a few minutes and thereby save hours of work. Our unique approach to pairwise comparisons allows you to use multiple criteria for evaluating choice options. For any ranking method in Prioneer - pairwise comparison and decison matrix - you can invite a group of people to rank items together with you.
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