BICEPS matrix


3 minutes read

There are six core needs researchers find are most important for humans at work. Not all are equally important to everyone.

I found these BICEPS human core needs very useful to open another level of conversation with the engineers I serve as lead. For that I formalized BICEPS into a matrix. I had the idea for such a matrix, when thinking about Not all are equally important to everyone.


As an organization we often face situations that are characterized by being:

  • uncertain
  • complex
  • ambiguous
  • inconsistant

Being able to handle those situations as lead is easier (not necessarily easy) based on data. The BICEPS matrix provides data that can help.


I combined the 6 BICEPS human core needs on the x-axis:

  • Belonging
  • Improvement/Progress
  • Choice
  • Equality/Fairness
  • Predictability
  • Significance/Status

with the list of engineers I serve on the y-axis into a matrix.

example BICEPS matrix with random values
example BICEPS matrix with random values

All engineers I serve luckily agreed to rank the 6 human core needs according to their personal importance. That wasn’t an easy task for some, including me, because human core needs are about the core of human needs. Bringing human core need items into an order of importance may feel like value a certain need higher than another which is not the case.

I got one data row to fill into the matrix per engineer. I did order the 6 human core needs for myself as well and shared my order of importance with all engineers who shared their order.

Color codes are attached to the matrix for easier visualization in descending order
6 most important – 1 less important, still important:

  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1


I use these matrix data as an additional item to prepare one-to-one meetings. With the order of importance in mind I can respond better to the needs of engineers.

I do not share the BICEPS matrix data I received from the engineers I serve. Rather, I share conclusions I derive from those data, however I make sure those conclusions do not allow to identify individual engineers.

I did experiment with executing statistical calculation with the data in the BICEPS matrix. Percentiles per need provided most insights to me, so those numbers became part of the example BICEPS matrix. I am still unsure if average number per need provides value. I have the feeling that might be the case in the future.


Creating a BICEPS matrix and filling in data with the help of engineers together

  • helps me to open another level of conversation with engineers I serve
  • helps me better understand engineers’ core needs
  • empowers me to project reactions to potential organizational changes

I shared this approach amongst the leadership group and happily realized some of my peers added BICEPS matrix to their leadership tool box as well.

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