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What is Nominal Group Technique?

Quality Glossary Definition: Nominal group technique

Nominal group technique (NGT) is defined as a structured method for group brainstorming that encourages contributions from everyone and facilitates quick agreement on the relative importance of issues, problems, or solutions. Team members begin by writing down their ideas, then selecting which idea they feel is best. Once team members are ready, everyone presents their favorite idea, and the suggestions are then discussed and prioritized by the entire group using a point system. NGT combines the importance ratings of individual group members into the final weighted priorities of the group.

When to Use Nominal Group Technique

Use NGT when:

  • Some group members are much more vocal than others
  • Some group members think better in silence
  • There is concern about some members not participating
  • The group does not easily generate quantities of ideas
  • Some or all group members are new to the team
  • The issue is controversial or there is heated conflict

Nominal Group Technique Steps

Materials needed: Paper and pen or pencil for each individual, flipchart, marking pens, and tape.

  1. State the problem, question, or issue that is the subject of the brainstorming and ensure that everyone understands.
  2. Each team member silently thinks of solutions or ideas that come to mind when considering the problem and writes down as many as possible in a set period of time (5 to 10 minutes).
  3. Each member states aloud one idea. The facilitator records it on the flipchart.
    • No discussion is allowed, not even questions for clarification.
    • Ideas given do not need to be from the team members' written lists. Indeed, as time goes on, many ideas will not be found on their original lists.
    • A member may "pass" his or her turn and may then add an idea on a subsequent turn.
    • Continue around the group until all members pass or until an agreed-upon length of time.
  4. Discuss each idea in turn. Wording may be changed only when the idea’s originator agrees. Ideas may be stricken from the list only by unanimous agreement or when there are duplicates. Discussion may clarify meaning, explain logic or analysis, raise and answer questions, or state agreement or disagreement. The group may also combine ideas into categories.
  5. Prioritize the recorded ideas in relation to the original question using multivoting or list reduction. Typically, the solution with the highest total ranking is selected as the final decision. Other variations include estimating the amount of work required to implement each solution by assigning it a point value; the higher the point value, the more work involved.

    For example, Table 1 lists possible user requirements for a library card system. Three team members have assigned each user requirement a points value based on the estimated work involved.

Nominal Group Technique (NGT) Example
Table 1: Nominal Group Technique (NGT) Example

Nominal Group Technique Considerations

  • The primary purpose of the discussion is clarification, not to resolve differences of opinion.
  • Discussion should be equally balanced among all ideas.
  • Keep all ideas visible. When ideas overflow to additional flipchart pages, post previous pages around the room so all ideas are still visible to everyone.
  • See brainstorming for other suggestions to use with this tool.

Adapted from The Quality Toolbox, Second Edition, ASQ Quality Press.

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