April 8, 2010
This card sorting exercise is a fun way to assess priorities. It also allows you to compare the priorities of two different sub groups, such as an agency and a client, or two departments within an organization.
Materials & Requirements
- Index cards with pre-printed ideas/topics on them
- Sharpies for each participant
- A meeting room large enough where everyone can sit around a single table
- Put all of the features and functionality for the website onto individual index cards. Create a set of cards for everyone attending the exercise. Ideally there should not be more than 20 cards, less is ideal.
- Seat everyone around the table. When assessing variance in priorities between organizations, it’s good to alternate seating. It helps people get to know each other and it prevents the awkwardness of someone deciding something has a low priority in front of a coworker or supervisor.
- Have each person sort the cards in order of their perceived priority, with the highest priority cards at the top of the pile and the lowest at the bottom.
- Each person should take the 3 lowest priority cards and put a hash mark in the upper right hand corner. They then should pass the cards to the person on their left, who should incorporate them into their pile.
- Variation: on the first pass, allow everyone to take the most important and least important card, write “save” and “remove” on them, respectively, and set them aside. Later these high and low priority cards are a good tool for facilitating a follow-up discussion.
- Repeat the prioritization sort and passing of low priority cards 2 to 3 more times. Pass fewer cards each time, e.g. 2 cards in round 2, and 1 card in round 3.
- After the final passing round, have everyone puts a number indicating the overall priority in the upper left hand corner, and their initials in the lower right hand corner. Their initials later can be used to indicate what sub group they belong to for assessing variance.
- Collect all cards and put them into a spreadsheet for analysis. If you did the variation outlined in step 5, lay those cards out and facilitate a discussion around common choices and outliers.
Analysis of Data
Total the number of passes for each card. A large number of passes indicates that the entire group shares a low priority, where conversely no passes indicates a high priority. If you assess the average ratings (the number in the upper left corner subtracted from the total number of cards, e.g. out of 10 items, a priority 1 item would get 10 points, and then average points across participants), it will give you another measure of group priority. Segment sub groups and run similar numbers to assess variance, and note that those ideas or topics might be harder to add or remove to the project for future discussion.