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The Nominal Group Technique

The nominal group technique is an excellent tool that enables everyone to participate in process development. Decision making and problem solving in groups is absolutely empowering, however sometimes shouters and dominants may take over the process.

The technique ensures that even the shy and intimidated has an equal impact in the process outcome and it can be used not just for consensus decision making and problem solving but also for priority settings, strategy building,  etc.  

Here's The Nominal Group Technique in four steps:

Step 1: Silent Idea Generation 

This first step is designed to allow participants time to generate ideas and/or possible solutions to a given problem. Participants are given worksheets with the problem statement printed at the top and are asked to write their own ideas. They are discouraged from discussing with their peers. It is an individual exercise that stimulates serious thinking, creativity and objectivity.

Step 2: Round-Robin Reporting of Ideas

In this second step participants share their ideas with the group. All participants’ ideas are listed on a flipchart, using their exact words. Each idea is labeled with a letter of the alphabet. This labeling makes the ranking of solutions easier in the last step. The purpose of “round-robin reporting” is to encourage everyone to present ideas, particularly for intimidated , shyer participants who may feel overwhelmed by the most dominant participants. 

Step 3: Discussion for clarification

This step provides an opportunity for open discussion and clarification of all the generated ideas Participants elaborate ideas, clarify meaning of words and phrases, which appear, on the worksheets. 

Step 4: The ranking of problem solutions

The purpose of this final phase of the nominal group technique is to combine the ideas and opinions of individual members to determine the relative importance of the problems or solutions that have been identified.

During this step each group member records five items of highest priority from those listed on the flipchart. They write one phrase and the identifying letter of the alphabet on each card.

Then group members are asked to identify the items of highest importance and rank it as 5, the next highest importance as 4, and so on.

The cards are collected and points are tallied on a master sheet.

The final outcome is therefore a set of independent judgments.


When developing the nominal group technique, as with all participatory techniques, it's important to remember that the process of discussing the problem and deciding about the solution is equally or more important  than the outcome.The final product may look just a list of opinions, but the process involved in creating the list is what counts.
The reasons behind those solutions, the knowledge, the judgments, the feelings and perceptions are ingredients that make the process powerful. Participatory processes are beneficial to individuals and groups as they increase confidence and commitment, provide opportunities to utilize multiple talents, increase team capacity to work together and tackle difficult tasks. Team building and employee empowerment are more effective when organically integrated into decision making and  problem solving routines.

Related Articles:

Decision Making Skills

Decision Making Steps

Decision Making Tips

Fishbone Diagram

Problem Solving Techniques

Outstanding Leaders consider themselves a work in progress
 Dr Franklin C. Ashby 

lead and learn

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Management Terms

Decentralization -
pushing power and decision making downward.

MBO - Management by Objectives.


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