Nominal group technique

Nominal group technique: fundamental principles, essential characteristics and procedure steps

This technique was originally developed by A. L. Delbecq and A. H. VandeVen  (1971),  and has been applied to adult education program planning by K. R. Vedros.
It is a structured from of BrainStorming or BrainWriting with up to:
a) 10 participants and an experienced facilitator.
b) 3-4 groups of up to 10 participants, with a spokesperson for each group and a single facilitator overall).

The fundamental principles:

1. A nominal group consists of several people who are prepared to work as a team to resolve a problem.
2.  This method encourages all participants to have an equal say in the process.
Contribution from all participants is encouraged and every individual’s idea is given equal standing, whether unique or not.
3. Ideas are gathered in the nominal technique by confirming a level of anonymity.
4. It is used to generate a ranked list of ideas.

The essential characteristics of NGT:

1. Silent generation of ideas by writing.
2. Round-robin feedback from group members to record each idea in a terse phrase on a flip chart.
3. Discussion of each recorded idea for clarification and evaluation.
4. Individual voting on priority of ideas with the group decision being mathematically derived through rank-ordering or rating.
Various forms of the procedure can be undertaken, however, the classical form uses the following steps.

Procedure Steps:

1. Participants are asked to write down their ideas anonymously (10 minutes).
2. Round-robin recording of ideas, allows each person in turn to read out one idea, which the facilitator writes up on a flip chart for all to view and numbered sequentially. This is repeated going around the groups until all ideas are exhausted and any duplicates are eliminated.
3. Serial discussion to clarify ideas and check communication is encouraged by the facilitator. Discussions are calm and controlled to aid clarification of the idea, they are not heated debates. This process used is called distillation.
4. Preliminary anonymous vote on item importance is usually carried out in the method described under Anonymous Voting.
5. Further discussion and voting, takes place if the voting is not consistent. Steps 3 – 4 can be repeated and any ideas that received votes will be re-discussed for clarification.
6. The top ideas could be forwarded to specialized brainstorming session in specific: departments, units or groups. Thus one group may work on the color required in a product, another group may work on the size and so forth. Each group will come back to the whole group for ranking the listed ideas.