Nominal Group Technique

Beginning with a specific and clear question, the participants can identify issues and prioritise them. The same question or topic can be used with different groups of people, for example staff, patients or carers, and comparisons made between the issues and priorities. One session usually lasts about three hours.

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How to do it

The Nominal Group Technique has five main stages:

  1. Idea – for 5-10 minutes delegates write down ideas based on the question/s posed.
  2. 'Round Robin' stage – each delegate reads out one of their ideas with their best one first and these are jotted down onto a larger piece of paper, blackboard or flipchart.
  3. Clarification – at this stage each idea is discussed more widely and clarified; duplicate ideas are brought together and individual ideas are numbered.
  4. Voting – from the ideas which are numbered, delegates prioritise them based on an agreed voting system.
  5. Action – the group discusses their plan of action, based on the outcome of the vote, with the intent of reaching agreement on how they will deal with the original question.

Pros

  • Many ideas are generated – obviously the more ideas that are generated the wider the range of options the group will have on which to decide.
  • The technique is useful for identifying problems, exploring solutions and establishing priorities.
  • It encourages everyone to contribute and prevents people from dominating the discussion.
  • The written generation of ideas encourages the commitment of participants in taking part in the planned action.

Cons

  • The ideas may be ill informed or impractical – it must be explained that the process being carried out is not being done so in a hypothetical sense but is a realistic problem requiring realistic solutions.
  • The Nominal Group Technique is a good stand-alone technique for simple issues but must be combined with other approaches where the issue is more complicated or affects people outside the sphere of influence within the group.
  • Participants need to be able to read and write.
  • Group members have to make themselves available for the required time.

Resources

  • Facilitator(s)
  • Staff time for pre-planning
  • Venue and catering
  • Reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses of lay participants.

Top Tips

Use this checklist for running a Nominal Group Technique event:

  • Pre-plan: think about what you want to ask, who you want to speak to and how many people will be involved.
  • Gather the moderators together and write the questions/priorities you wish to be identified.
  • Book venues and refreshments for your Nominal Groups well in advance and decide on your incentive.
  • Allow plenty of time for recruiting Nominal Group members.
  • Present/provide your feedback to the group based on the outcome of the vote.

Sources and Further Information

Some of this information was first published in: