Delphi Technique Explained with Examples


Delphi Technique Explained

Delphi technique allows group members to submit anonymous feedback to encourage open dialogue from group members based on their own experiences and perspectives. Organizations use Delphi technique when they want to include and implement opinions from many people.

Delphi technique allows for more feedback while allowing people who can’t make it to an in-person meeting to participate in the conversation. It’s also used with significant effect by marketers in developing surveys and questionnaires to garner honest feedback from clients or customers. In this article, we will explain the Delphi technique and how organizations can use it to address their complex and controversial issues through a structured debate.

What is the Delphi Technique?

Delphi technique refers to a process where organizations collect information from experts using several rounds of questions. It’s a systematic and qualitative method that relies on experts to forecast the future outcome where they are much knowledgeable about.

Delphi technique comprises several written questionnaires that utilize the opinions of experts. Experts give their answers to each round-up of questionnaires. Then the facilitator gathers all answers and issues a summary report of the answers to each expert.

The experts analyze the summary reports and either agree or disagree with other expert’s answers. After analyzing the summary reports, the experts fill out another questionnaire that allows them to offer opinions based on their understanding of the summary reports. It only becomes complete when the experts reach an agreement on their forecasts.

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When is the Delphi Technique Used?

Delphi technique is a significant methodology when an organization doesn’t know a real answer to a problem. Experts give a wide range of opinions, thus useful and prevent biases that result from relying on a single expert. Delphi technique applies when:

  • A company desires subjective statements that come from a collective basis
  • There are large sample sizes, and face to face interaction becomes unreliable
  • It’s crucial to hide identity, especially on issues that are political or intractable
  • There are high chances that one member would dominate the group discussion

Delphi Technique Process

Out of all the various change management models, the Delphi technique is often only associated with the consensus approach. It’s in many ways similar to the nominal group process (NGP) in that it requires a facilitator and several rounds of communications between people with opposing views. However, its unique value proposition distinguishes it from the nominal group process model and other related approaches. It promotes a more objective opinion on controversial topics than similar approaches.

  • Identify issues and objectives.

An organization needs to identify their issue at hand and its main goal for using the Delphi technique. They should research and ascertain the importance of the thing they want to forecast.

  • Select a facilitator and a team of experts

Experts can include internal or external individuals in the company. They may consist of the project team or any individual who is knowledgeable about a specific topic. The facilitator needs to occupy a neutral position and be a person who has experience in data collection and research.

  • Round one questionnaire

The facilitator issues the experts with their first questionnaire. The questions are usually open-ended to allow the experts to brainstorm their ideas. The facilitator takes the questionnaires from the experts and comes up with a summary report for the answers which he gives the experts. The experts don’t reveal their identity, as this helps them share their opinions without fear.



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  • Round two questionnaire

An organization needs to set the questionnaire basing on the answers the experts gave in round one. They should identify similarities in the responses and leave out solutions that were out of context. The second questionnaire needs to follow answers that show consensus among the experts.

The expert’s opinions and answers in this questionnaire may remain the same or have a few changes. They may change their views after reading the summary report of the first questionnaire. The facilitator then makes a summary report of the second questionnaire answers and give the experts.

  • Round three questionnaire

An organization needs to create a third-round questionnaire using the same ideas as the second questionnaire. The questionnaire is a result of the analysis of the second questionnaire. The facilitator then collects the questionnaires and comes up with a summary report answers which he gives the experts.

You can opt to stop here if you feel you have gathered enough information or continue with the questionnaire until you achieve your desired answers.

  • Act on your findings

After the round three questionnaires, the experts should have reached a consensus, and hence an organization have a clear view of future events. An organization should now evaluate the results and develop a strategy to handle future opportunities and risks to their project.

Tips for Effective Delphi Technique

Every successful business out there knows that marketing is the key to success. The name of the game is to get as many clients as possible. When a business has more clients, profits go up, and client retention also increases. And that’s where the Delphi technique process comes in handy to get the best results for handling clients. Below are practical tips which will help you to get great results from the Delphi technique.

  • Assessments

The experts should assess a situation before coming up with strategies to manage the assessment, including current issues, threats, or company expectations. From the reviews, they can now come up with ways to fix the problems.

  • Carrying capacity

An organization should consider the capacity of experts they can hold. The ability relies on the resources and cost of conducting the survey. It should be within the company’s power to avoid misunderstandings between the experts and the company.

  • Context

A company needs to consider the context in which they will apply the solution the experts give. Context refers to the ecological, managerial, and social atmosphere in which the organization will use the plan.

  • The desire for future conditions

An effective questionnaire should include the project the company wants to achieve. The prescriptions will give experts the basis for them to answer the questions and ensure their thoughts don’t differ.

  • Financial planning

Ensure you have enough resources and money to facilitate the research. Proper financial planning prevents the company from pausing the Delphi process due to the inability to pay the experts.

  • Monitoring

Once the experts give their view and a company comes up with a plan to achieve the results, they should closely monitor the plan to determine if it’s in line with achieving the desired outcome.

Advantages of Delphi Technique

The Delphi Technique is a simple way to structure the conversation between users and potential buyers. A company can determine what people think and feel about their product and then decide what steps to improve it.

Additionally, it’s a consensus-building method that seeks the opinions of a panel of experts. Each expert makes independent predictions and judgments about the subjects of a study without knowing the forecasts or assessments of the other experts. Some of its advantages include:

  • Ensures collaboration

Anonymity prevents the impacts of dominant individuals, thus reduce the peer pressure to conform. It allows experts to give their opinions freely, without any judgments.

  • Equal opinions

The facilitator must rate all the expert opinions equally. Thus, an individual can’t shift the group’s views.

  • Reduces conflicts

The facilitator provides controlled feedback on the expert’s opinions, reducing disagreements and allowing participants to reconsider their input based on the other expert’s opinions.

  • Reduced drawbacks

Delphi technique allows an organization to use a committee with few drawbacks such as scheduling, lengthy discussion, and travel arrangements.

Disadvantages of Delphi Technique

  • Insufficient methodological guidelines
  • The experts must be committed to answering similar questions over and over again.
  • No evidence of reliability, i.e., a facilitator may issue two experts with a set of the questionnaire and they may not come to the same consensus.
  • Limits the experts from discussing with one another, thus hinders them from sharing their views on the matter.
  • The consensus doesn’t mean that the experts have got a correct answer. It only implies that the experts have found an area that they consider crucial to the topic.
  • Its time consuming since the facilitator needs to conduct repetitive questions to come up with a common consensus.
  • The process may become complex due to an increase in multiple and repetitive rounds.

Example/Application of Delphi Technique

The united states government intended to gather information on the number of teen pregnancies in a particular municipality. To collect the data, the government appointed a project facilitator. It then selected a group of experts who knew the city. The experts were excellent in communicating with the residents.

The facilitator did an analysis and came up with a survey that clearly stated the problem to the experts. The experts did round one questionnaire to which the facilitator analyzed the answers and came up with a summary report answers which he gave to the experts.

In the second questionnaire, the facilitator developed questions basing on the first-round questionnaire. The experts also gave their answers, to which the facilitator also made a summary report answer and handed it to the experts. He did the same for the third questionnaire, in which the experts reached a consensus.

Through the help of the solutions and suggestions from experts, the facilitator found the most efficient and top-quality information, which helped solve the problem.

The second application of the Delphi technique is of a project manager who desires to achieve canvas opinions and reach a consensus of how their products can be successful in the marketplace. The manager settles on the Delphi technique and opts to invite the top 50 people in the organization to participate.

The manager sets the questionnaires and asks the participants to rate the following options for them to accomplish their goals:

  • Improve team productivity
  • Give a tiered product pricing
  • Add more people to the sales team
  • Give faster feedbacks to customers
  • Other

The manager used the number of questions to decide the points the experts should assign each question. Since there are five questions, the participants had to give points from 1 to 5. Five being the highest and one the lowest.

Below is a summary of how the participants gave their rating.

GoalMarypeterJohnRoseMeanStud Div.
Improve team productivity12532.751.7078
Provide tiered product pricing43312.751.2583
Add more people to the sales team34443.750.5
Give faster feedback to customers52222.751.5
Other5  5  

From the above table, only two participants, Mary, and rose gave five points. The comment was for the company to expand into German. The facilitator collected all the questionnaires, analyzed the answers, came up with a summary report answers, and gave it to the experts.

The experts answer to the second questionnaire was as follows:

GoalMaryPeterJohnRoseMeanStud Div.
Improve team productivity11532.51.9149
Provide tiered product pricing33122.250.9574
Add more people to the sales team24343.250.9574
Give faster feedback to customers52122.51.7321
Launch in Germany54454.50.5774

The company continued with the questionnaires until they achieved what they wanted or got a low standard deviation. The typical standard deviation shows that there is a low variance for an item in the list. In this case, there is a low variance for launch in Germany. That means that most people agree with the idea of launching the business in Germany.

The item with the highest mean value will impact its more crucial, and that the organization needs to focus on it to achieve higher sales. From the example, the company settled for launching their business in Germany since it had more votes. That means it’s the best goal for the company.

Conclusion

Some organizations run into problems or different challenges in accomplishing their goals. That’s because there is no (or a little) company-wide consensus on which direction the organization should pursue, given that there are several paths to reach the same ultimate goal. However, using the Delphi technique will help solve the problem. Delphi technique uses experts with a vast knowledge of the topic, thus allowing your organization to follow the right path to achieve its success.

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