Nominal Group Technique Explained with Examples


Do you ever look at your list of ideas and wish there was a way to pick the best one? There is, and it’s called the nominal group technique (NGT). NGTs divide respondents into small groups and ask each which option they prefer in a series. From this collective judgement, it’s possible to work out which option is most preferred before individual opinions are known.

Nominal group techniques can be a very useful way of improving concepts, increasing innovation and providing other benefits. They can also be seen as training wheels for managing innovation. They are particularly useful when your groups are homogeneous.

What is Nominal Group Technique

Nominal group technique refers to an organized method in which a group uses to listen to each member’s views and ensure swift agreement on crucial issues, challenges, or solutions. The team members usually note down their opinions and settle on the idea that best fits the problem.

Each team member has enough time to write their ideas, and once everyone is ready, the team leader gives them the chance to share their best ideas. The group members air out their views and settle on the one they value using a point system.

Who Should Use the Nominal Group Technique?

Nominal group technique is appropriate for:

  • Group members who tend to be more vocal than the other
  • Group members who value silence
  • Group members who fail to participate in decision making
  • Groups which don’t come up with quality ideas
  • A team in which new members have joined them
  • Team members who have conflict in the decision-making process

Steps to Conduct Nominal Group Technique

To facilitate a nominal group technique, each group member must have a pen, flipchart, tape, pencil, and marking pens. Below are the crucial steps to perform a nominal group technique:

  1. The Group leader highlights the issue, question, or challenge in question and ensures everyone is familiar with it.
  2. Each group member has quality time to silently ponder the ideas and solutions that pop in their minds while thinking of the problem. They then are allocated 5 to 10 mins to write down their thoughts.
  3. The team leader writes down on a flipchart the ideas of each member as they present their views. During this time:
    • All discussions are forbidden.
    • The proposed ideas aren’t supposed to come from the group members’ written lists. A lot of ideas don’t appear on the original plan as time passes.
    • Members are allowed to skip their allocated turns and may give their thoughts on a subsequent turn.
    • The discussion continues until all members agree on the ideas mentioned or reach the time they had allocated for the debate.
  4. The member engages in a discussion over each member’s idea. During this process, they may alter a member’s opinion upon approval from the member. Only repeated statements are left out. The members may group ideas into categories, and the discussion solves and clearly outline the analysis or logistics. It also solves disagreements and answers members’ questions.
  5. The member engages in a discussion over each member’s idea. During this process, they may alter a member’s opinion upon approval from the member. Only repeated statements are left out. The members may group ideas into categories, and the discussion solves and clearly outline the analysis or logistics. It also solves disagreements and answers members’ questions.

An example is the nominal group technique a travel agency system. Below are the results from the three team members who assigned user requirements based on the estimated work involved.

Advantages of Nominal Group Technique

  • Diversity in opinions

A team comprises many members, and each member has their views and opinions regarding the issue in discussion. Every person’s idea may be unique and add impact to an organization compared to individual decision making. The statements offer more effective alternatives that result in successful decisions.

  • Participation and interests of members

Nominal group technique encourages each member to participate in decision making, and each idea is appreciated. Active participation may make the members more interested and dedicate all their efforts to giving ideas that would add value to their company.

  • Positive and understanding members

All members have to be familiar with and understand the matter at hand because their decisions will be highly accountable and benefit the group. Appreciation of each member’s ideas motivates the group members to give quality decisions that facilitate the success of an organization.



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  • The collective contribution of ideas

The nominal group technique removes the concept of monopoly in decision-making. Collective decision-making works in favor of all group members compared to individual decision-making, which may only work in an individual’s favor.

  • Team building

Every member’s decision is valued. The involvement motivates all the group members to actively participate in decision-making, elevating their morale and creating coordinative and healthy relationships. Participation helps the members to acquire skills in the decision-making process, which adds value to the group and the group members.

  • Democratic decision making

The nominal group technique allows each member to air their views on the situation at hand. The freedom of expression builds trusts between the members since they have the privilege to express their opinions and removes disagreements and conflicts between group members, hence the organization’s success.

  • Plentiful information

Every member may have a different view on the solution of a problem. The ideas create excellent information for the group and help the members think according to each concept and develop the solution. Thus, easy decision-making compared to individual decision-making, where one may have limited views.

  • Expert opinions

Every member usually has a unique opinion concerning the matter in discussion. Some ideas may be similar, and the group members may combine them and develop an expert opinion that may solve their problem. Some members may also have excellent ideas since they may be experts in the area in question.

  • Voting System

All the member’s ideas are voted upon to decide on the decision that favors all the group members. The concept which gets more vote is given priority and becomes the final decision. Voting helps to reduce biasness in the organization and ensures every member is comfortable with the decision made.

Disadvantages of Nominal Group Technique

  • Consumption of time

The larger the size of the group, the larger the time consumed in decision-making. Every member’s opinion accounts and some members may have a wide range of ideas, which may consume a lot of time in trying to vote for the best idea.

  • Different ideas and opinions 

In nominal group technique, each member comes up with the idea that favors their interest. The decisions cause conflicts among the members, which is unhealthy. Which, in turn, reduces the efficiency and quality in deciding which decision the group should adopt.

  • Social pressure

Some team members may choose to remain silent during the decision-making process due to the environment’s pressure. Social anxiety may significantly affect a group member’s mindset. After that, change in their behavior which may affects the decision-making process.

  • Giving some ideas more priority over the others

Group members may emphasize specific ideas and not develop other statements, which may even be more beneficial. The preference restricts the members’ choices and makes them stick to the few ideas that may not significantly impact the company.

  • Uncertainty in the risk-bearing factor

The risk-bearing factor will always come up when the decision-making process involves the group as a whole. The group may tend to settle towards more risk or less risk in favor of the group. The moment they decide for higher risk; they tend to get greater rewards after fulfilling all the objectives. However, the group members need to take certain risks to ensure the success of the organization.

  • Preceding some important decisions

During the decision-making process, the group members may give some decisions higher priority over the others. After that, put more effort into the high priority decisions and forego the low priority decision. In this process, they may end up forgetting important choices which are of more value.

  • Rushed decision making

Group members may hurriedly make decisions in a situation where the decision is needed very fast. The rush may lead them to make poor decisions that may incur consequences in the future. The effects may be fatal that can result in destroying the organization.

  • The leader denies responsibility.

The group members usually appoint leaders who they think are responsible enough to handle the group members. In a scenario where a decision is needed urgently, the group leader may appoint some committee members to provide help without discussing it with the members. The findings may result in consequences that may affect all the group members as a whole.

  • Overuse of authority

The nominal group technique mainly involves considering all the group members’ ideas to ensure unity and achieve the group’s goals. However, some members may misuse the authority and rule over the group with their opinions. Misuse of power may cause some members to keep their distance from the group decision-making process, thus demeaning the group’s concept.

  • Highly expensive

All the team members have to gather in one place and contribute effectively to the discussion. The process involves using money, energy, and time which can be expensive, especially when the decision-making process takes place within a short period.

Examples of Nominal Group Technique

A director in charge of project management, trying to improve their organization’s performance, meets with all the staff members and states the meeting’s agenda to ensure all the members understand what they must do to achieve their objectives.

They all agree on a problem statement of ‘Which methods to put in place to ensure their organization’s success.’ The director then gives all the members six cards each to write on their best ideas that offer a solution to the problem. Each view on each card and gives them one day to come up with their ideas.

In the next meeting, the director had written the problem statement from the previous discussion on a blackboard. He then confirms that everyone had reported the problem solution on their cards. He illustrated the technique he was going to imply and answered the questions posed by the members.

He took all the cards from the members, shuffled them, then reread them out one after the other, ensuring everyone understood what was on each card. He helped rewrite some statements and put them down on the flipchart, writing a capital letter against each one.

The team members had the opportunity to add new ideas to the cards. They then voted with five votes each, ranging from five points down to one end. They put down the name of an excellent idea on ballot slips that had the point values printed on them. They handed them to the director, who summed them up and noted the final score against the right ideas.

Six ideas emerged with high scores. However, none of the ideas scored more than the others. They had to conduct a second ballot to separate this group. And the second round, one thought came to the top, which they settled on as the final idea.

Conclusion

The nominal group technique’s primary purpose is to ensure every member participates in the decision-making process. Small groups can apply the nominal group technique to establish the consensus on identifying main problems in developing solutions that they can test by use of rapid change cycles.

The nominal group technique is a very reliable tool as it provides all the group members with an equal opportunity to express their ideas. Thus, it stimulates excellent performance of the organization and healthy relationships between the members.

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