Tool: Group Decision-Making: Nominal Group Technique

Author: Curated by Daniel Dow | visionSynergy

 

Group Decision-Making: Nominal Group Technique

Description:

Nominal Group Technique is a group consensus decision-making process that ensures everyone is heard, the key issues discussed, the best solutions identified, and a fair, group-based decision is made. Networks use this technique when faced with a difficult decision, multiple viable solutions, or differences of opinion. It ensures everyone is heard and a part of the discussion.

 

When To Use It:

  1. Situations where everyone needs to be heard
  2. The decision is difficult or controversial
  3. The group feels stuck or in disagreement
  4. Not enough ideas have been generated
  5. When cultural or communication challenges present themselves
  6. When participant power levels are different

 

What’s Needed?

  • A facilitator
  • A flipchart or index cards
  • Pens or markers
  • Timeframe: One Hour

 

How To Facilitate Nominal Group Technique:

  1. Works best with groups of 10 or less people. Larger groups can be split into smaller groups of 6 – 8 people. Have the groups work together through the process.
  2. Agree on the question that needs to be decided. This is usually a “How” question. Once agreed on, write it so all can see it. Make sure everyone fully understands the question.
  3. list out all of the objectives of the decision. To do so, the group may need to consider a number of questions, such as:
    • What are we trying to achieve?
    • What would a successful result look like or accomplish?
    • What limitations are we under (think size, cost, time, location, resources, etc)?

    Often times the group will find that some of the objectives are more important than others. In such cases, it can also be very helpful to indicate the relative importance of each desired objective. Some objectives may be defined as a “MUST” (meaning it is mandatory, measurable, and has a agreed upon set limit) rather than a relative “WANT”.

  4. Have everyone take five minutes to brainstorm or list 5 – 7+ options / solutions.
  5. The facilitator leads the group through a discussion of each idea — clarifying, connecting similar ideas together, or adding to it. Each person shares their ideas. The ideas are not judged for merit or worth yet, merely clarified.
  6. Have the group/s identify the top 5 – 7 options. The facilitator ensures everyone is heard and all options are discussed. For large groups, a dot-voting process can be used to narrow the list.
  7. The facilitator now hands out 5 – 7 index cards per person. Each card has one option written on it.
  8. Have each person identify the their top choice and write a number one on the back. Now have them identify the last option and write that number on the back of the card. Rank the rest of the ideas and write the number on the back.
  9. Collect the cards and count up the scores. If there is a tie, you can vote a second time on the ideas with a tied score.

Once a decision is made. Discuss what this means and confirm the group member’s agreement. Then discuss next steps. When each question and the process are facilitated well all members will have had the chance to contribute and feel heard.
 

Additional Resources:

  1. Community Development: Nominal Group Technique
  2. The Nominal Group Technique – A Practical Guide for Facilitators (PPT)

2 thoughts on “Tool: Group Decision-Making: Nominal Group Technique

  1. Jay B.

    I would suggest adding another step in-between the current step #2 and #3. After identifying the decision statement, but before asking people to list out all of the possible choices or alternatives, lies a very important step. That step is to list out all of the objectives of the decision. To do so, the group may need to consider a number of questions, such as:
    – What are we trying to achieve?
    – What would a successful result look like or accomplish?
    – What limitations are we under (think size, cost, time, location, resources, etc)?

    Often times the group will find that some of the objectives are more important than others. In such cases, it can also be very helpful to indicate the relative importance of each desired objective. Some objectives may be defined as a “MUST” (meaning it is mandatory, measurable, and has a agreed upon set limit) rather than a relative “WANT”.

    I mention this added step(s) because I find that if the objectives are not clearly agreed upon up front before talking about choices/alternatives, then the group making the decision may come across significant conflict and differences of opinion when evaluating what the best option is because they are each using their own (unspoken and/or not agreed upon) evaluation criteria (which are the objectives and their relative importance).

  2. Daniel Dow Post author

    Hi Jay, Great insight! Thanks for sharing your expertise and experience! I will add your suggestion into the post so other members can benefit. Curious if you find this to be more useful when working on a strategic vs. tactical / implementation level?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.