Defining the 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. The process prevents the domination of the discussion by a single person, encourages all group members to participate, and results in a set of prioritized solutions or recommendations that represent the group’s preferences.
When to Use NGT
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, th
e 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?”
How to Prepare for NGT
The Meeting Room
Prepare a room large enough to accommodate 5-9 nine participants. Organize the tables in a U-shape, with a flip chart at the open end of the U.
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.
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.
Nominal Group Technique Considerations
Discussion should be equally balanced among all ideas. The facilitator should not allow discussion to turn into argument. The primary purpose of the discussion is clarification. It is not to resolve differences of opinion.
Keep all ideas visible. When ideas overflow to additional flipchart pages, post previous pages around the room so all ideas are still visible to everyone.
See brainstorming for other suggestions to use with this tool.
The Four Step Process to Conduct NGT
Step 1. Silently Brainstorm 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.
Step 2. Round robin sharing of 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.
Step 3. Discuss & Clarify Ideas on the Flip Chart
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.
Step 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 dealing with a large number of items
It may be necessary to narrow the list through using the Multi-Voting or 100 Votes procedures.
7. Ranked items are discussed.
All items receiving a rank are listed so all participants can view. The ranking of each item is designated. (The higher the total, the higher the rank.) Further discussion and clarification of the ranked items is led by the facilitator to ensure that all participants understand what is meant by each priority.
8. 2nd Ranking.
From among the ranked items on the previous list, each participant ranks the ten items he now considers most important. This is done silently and independently as in step 6. (This ranking might be limited to five items per person.) The rankings are again averaged.
9. Final rankings are discussed.
The group reviews the ranking and discusses the outcome of the activity.
10. Format for sharing results.
Create a table listing all ranked items, beginning with the item ranked the highest. Include a column indicating the total votes each item received and the number of persons casting a vote for that item.