From RECL 3P25 Fall 2011 Nominal Group Technique
 Nominal Group Technique
Nominal (meaning in name only) group technique (NGT) is a structured variation of a small-group discussion to reach consensus. NGT gathers information by asking individuals to respond to questions posed by a moderator, and then asking participants to prioritize the ideas or suggestions of all group members. It was developed by Dr. Andrew H. Van de Ven and Dr. Andre Delbecq. Van de Ven was a university professor at the University of Minnesota and Delbecq was a professor at the University of Santa Clara. Originally invented for program planning for youth, has since been used around the world and is considered to be the most widely used form of group brainstorming. This technique addresses a lot of problems in the Community Development field. Coming to a decision has to be the biggest problem in the community development field. Such problems related to this are: there is usually one dominant person, a lot of ideas don't get addressed and not everyone gets to share thir ideas. The NGT process prevents the domination of the discussion by a single person, encourages all group members to participate, and it results in a set of prioritized solutions or recommendations that represent the group’s preferences. John Rohrbaugh implemented NGT and Social Judgement Analysis to see the quality of group judgement. Social Judgement Analysis is a theory that focuses on the internal processes of an individual's judgment with relation to a communicated message. It has been said that group judgement is superior to individual judgement, however groups fail to reach potential because of the interacting process. Rohrbaugh was able to show that after implementing the two techniques that they were equally strong in the quality of judgments produced; both sets of groups performed at a level of accuracy equivalent to that of the most proficient member. Thus, when using the Nominal group technique, one can produce the same quality of answer as an individual can.
NGT is a good method to use to gain group consensus, for example, when various people (program staff, stakeholders, community residents, etc.) are involved in constructing a logic model and the list of outputs for a specific component is too long and therefore has to be prioritized. In this case, the questions to consider would be: “Which of the outputs listed are most important to achieving our goal and are easier to measure? Which of our outputs are less important to achieving our goal and are more difficult for us to measure?”. Anyone that requires a group of people to gain a consensus should use this technique. It can be used by managers, stakeholders, community residents, teachers, HR departments, any group leaders, or anyone that needs to come to a group consensus, while including everyone in the process. This technique has been used in many different ways. One interesting way it was used is by a shopping mall to determine consumer's shopping problems. Males and females were separated into two different categories, where they were given items that men and women typically shop for. They were each given specific things to shop for and were than asked to give problems when shopping for this item. Participants ranked the most difficult problems, and the group were able to come to a solution. One item that was brought up is shopping for an oil change. The biggest problem identified was booking an appointment.
Another context where NGT has been used is coming to a consensus when working in groups at university. The following is a short video of it being implemented: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAtRcyjqLek
The following is another interesting way that NGT has been used in the past: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iMsLL2xv0s
The basic step by step process of implementing the Nominal Group Technique is as follows:
1. Generating Ideas: The moderator presents the question or problem to the group in written form and reads the question to the group. The moderator directs everyone to write ideas in brief phrases or statements and to work silently and independently. Each person silently generates ideas and writes them down.
2. Recording Ideas: Group members engage in a round-robin feedback session to concisely record each idea (without debate at this point). The moderator writes an idea from a group member on a flip chart that is visible to the entire group, and proceeds to ask for another idea from the next group member, and so on. There is no need to repeat ideas; however, if group members believe that an idea provides a different emphasis or variation, feel free to include it. Proceed until all members’ ideas have been documented.
3. Discussing Ideas: Each recorded idea is then discussed to determine clarity and importance. For each idea, the moderator asks, “Are there any questions or comments group members would like to make about the item?” This step provides an opportunity for members to express their understanding of the logic and the relative importance of the item. The creator of the idea need not feel obliged to clarify or explain the item; any member of the group can play that role.
4. Voting on Ideas: Individuals vote privately to prioritize the ideas. The votes are tallied to identify the ideas that are rated highest by the group as a whole. The moderator establishes what criteria are used to prioritize the ideas. To start, each group member selects the five most important items from the group list and writes one idea on each index card. Next, each member ranks the five ideas selected, with the most important receiving a rank of 5, and the least important receiving a rank of 1.After members rank their responses in order of priority, the moderator creates a tally sheet on the flip chart with numbers down the left-hand side of the chart, which correspond to the ideas from the round-robin. The moderator collects all the cards from the participants and asks one group member to read the idea number and number of points allocated to each one, while the moderator records and then adds the scores on the tally sheet. The ideas that are the most highly rated by the group are the most favored group actions or ideas in response to the question posed by the moderator.
When implementing the strategy it is important to let participants know exactly what you are doing. Participants tend to be unclear what is going on if the process is not explained properly. It is also essential for the participants to be clear on the ideas shared so that they are voting for the right idea. When implementing, it was clear participants would look at participants ideas, skewing the sole purpose of the technique. It is essential to separate participants from one another when they are writing down their own idea, so that more thought provoking ideas are thought of.
 Technique Strengths
There are many advantages of this technique, because it solves a lot of problems.The following is a list of advantages from Van de Ven and Delbecq:
1. Generates a greater number of ideas than traditional group discussions.
2. Balances the influence of individuals by limiting the power of opinion makers (particularly advantageous for use with teenagers, where peer leaders may have an exaggerated effect over group decisions, or in meetings of collaboratives, where established leaders tend to dominate the discussion.
3. Diminishes competition and pressure to conform, based on status within the group.
4. Diminishes competition and pressure to conform, based on status within the group.
5. Allows the group to prioritize ideas democratically.
6. Typically provides a greater sense of closure than can be obtained through group discussion.
When implementing the technique it was noticeable that the technique was garnering a great deal of participation. When participants were separated they were putting actual though in their answers and were not rushed where in some decision-making techniques they would be. Participants were clear on what each idea were and were able to properly rank the ideas they deemed the most important What is good about this technique, versus other approaches to addressing the same problem? Draw on scholarly research on the effectiveness or usefulness of the technique, as well as what you learned about the technique through your practice sessions/expert interviews.
When implementing this technique, it did take a lot of preparation and every part of the discussion had to be carefully planned. As noticed when implementing, is that it can generally only be used for a single-topic and can't really be used on more than one topic. Vedros noticed that even though the technique prevented from one single person leading the group discussion, it minimizes discussion and doesn't allow for the full development of ideas, causing it to be a less stimulating group process. When implementing the technique, the group wanted more of a discussion and participants were wondering where the rest of the process was. Other than the discussion between the sharing of the ideas and the ranking process, there really is not a group discussion. A more engaging approach could be useful in the future.
 Tips for Successful Implementation
Provide the reader with some hints and tips for how to successfully implement the technique. Again, these can be drawn from scholarly literature, useful sources, and your own practical experience.
The following is a list of ways to prepare for the Nominal Group Technique, as implemented by Van de Ven:
The Meeting Room Prepare a room large enough to accommodate five to nine participants. Organize the tables in a U-shape, with a flip chart at the open end of the U.
Supplies Each U-shaped table set up will need a flip chart; a large felt-tip pen; masking tape; and paper, pencil, and 3” x 5” index cards for each participant.
Opening Statement This statement clarifies member roles and group objectives, and should include: a warm welcome, a statement of the importance of the task, a mention of the importance of each member’s contribution, and an indication of how the group’s output will be used.
When this technique was implemented in the field it was noticeable that it is difficult to lead without any help. To be successful with this technique there needs to be one person or party leading the technique so that everyone is clear on what is trying to be obtained. However, it is important to have people helping to give out materials or collecting votes so that the technique can run as smoothly as possible. After everyone has shared their ideas it is also important that the whole group is clear on the choices, so that people are sharing their actual choices and are not forced to pick a choice when they are not clear.
1) Dunham, Randall. Nominal Group Technique: A User’s Guide. University of Wisconsin. http://instruction.bus.wisc.edu/obdemo/readings/ngt.ht ml. (Accessed 11//11/11)
2) Sample, J. (2000). Nominal Group Technique: An Alternative to Brainstorming. Extension Journal, 6, 1-5.
3) Center for Rural Studies. Guidelines for Using the Nominal Group Technique. http://crs.uvm.edu/gopher/nerl/group/a/meet/Exercis e7/b.html. (Accessed 11/11/11)
4) Nebergall, R.E. (1966). The social judgment-involvement approach to attitude and attitude change. Western Speech, 209-215.
5) Improving the quality of group judgement: Social judgement analysis and the nominal group technique. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 28(2), 272-288.
6) Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. "Gaining Consensus Among Stakeholders Through the Nominal Group Technique." Department of Health and Human Services 7 (2006): 1-3. Print
7) Claxton, J., Ritchie, B., & Zaichkowsky, J. (1980). The Nominal Group Technique: It's Potential for Consumer Research. Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, 1, 1-4.
8) Andre L. Delbecq, Andrew H. Van de Ven, and David H. Gustafson, (1975) "Group Techniques for Program Planning", Chicago: Scott, Foresman, and Co.
9) Vedros K. R., (1979). "The Nominal Group Technique is a Participatory, Planning Method In Adult Education", Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University, Tallahassee.</ Include a reference list of all of the sources used to prepare your workshop and wiki site. A minimum of four scholarly sources must be referenced (and appropriately used).
10) Delbecq A. L., VandeVen A. H., and Gustafson D. H., (1975). "Group Techniques for Program Planners", Glenview, Illinois: Scott Foresman and Company
 External Links
 Derek Brown
Derek Brown is a fourth year undergrad at Brock University studying Community Recreation with a minor in Business. He is 21 years old and was born February 1st 1990 in Toronto, Ontatio, Canada. He has been an avid participant in the community recreation industry and has always been interested on how decisions are made throughout the community. He has implemented the Nominal Group Technique in a group setting, so has knowledge on the implementation of the technique and how it works.