Nominal Group Technique

The nominal group technique was initially conceived by Andrew H. Van de Ven and Andrew L. Delbecq in their 1975 book Group techniques for program planning: A guide to nominal group and Delphi processes. The nominal group technique (NGT) is a brainstorming framework that encourages equal contribution from stakeholders and facilitates group consensus on key issues, problems, and their solutions.

Understanding the nominal group technique

One of the key traits of the NGT is an emphasis on enabling all participants to share their views and contribute to decision-making.

The technique enables those who may feel excluded from the brainstorming process to contribute to consensus, and is ideal in situations when:

  • The team is dominated by one or two individuals.
  • Some team members perform better when able to think in silence.
  • There are concerns over a lack of participation from some individuals.
  • The team’s ideas lack quality or quantity.
  • There exists a power imbalance between the moderator and team members or within the team itself.
  • The topic of discussion is controversial, and
  • The team is comprised of new members.

The NGT five-step process

How does the NGT process play out? Let’s detail the five steps below.

Step 1 – Preparation and introduction

To start, a room should be prepared with tables arranged in a U-shape and a flip chart with masking tape, pens, and pencils placed at the open end of the U.

Chairs should be set out for teams between 5 and 9 individuals. 

The facilitator then welcomes the team with an opening statement that explains the purpose and procedure of the session and also the importance of equal contribution.

Step 2 – Ideation

The facilitator then states the issue, problem, or question and asks each team member to write down as many solutions as possible in a set period.

Most teams shoot for 5 or 10 minutes, and this process must be carried out in silence.

Step 3 – Idea recording and sharing

In step three, team members share the ideas they have written down and each is recorded by the facilitator on the flip chart.

The facilitator works their way around the room until all ideas have been presented in a process that may take 30 minutes or so. 

There must be no debate of ideas at this point.

Step 4 – Group discussion

In step four, the individuals are invited to seek further clarification on any of the ideas presented by others.

Duplicate or similar ideas can be eliminated and discussions should center on clarifying meaning, asking questions, explaining logic, or expressing agreement or disagreement.

The facilitator plays an important role here. They ensure that the team does not spend too long on a single idea and that the conversation does not become critical or judgemental. Allow for 30 to 45 minutes to complete this step.

Step 4 – Group discussion

Lastly, the team prioritizes the ideas with respect to the original issue, question, or problem.

Some teams use multivoting to narrow the list of potential solutions to a final choice or at least two or three potentials.

In keeping with the NGT, the voting process should be conducted in private before results are tallied.

Other teams may score each idea based on how much time or work is required to implement, with the most resource-intensive options attracting the highest scores.

Others still may rank the solutions based on specific criteria the facilitator has deemed the most important.

Regardless of how solutions are voted on or scored, the process should be written on the flip chart so that everyone feels included.

Key takeaways:

  • The nominal group technique (NGT) is a brainstorming framework that encourages equal contribution from stakeholders and facilitates group consensus on key issues, problems, and their solutions.
  • NGT is ideally suited to brainstorming sessions dominated by one or two individuals who may crowd out others with their personalities. It is also useful for new teams, quiet teams, controversial topics, or when brainstormed ideas lack in quality or quantity.
  • The five simple steps of the nominal group technique include preparation and introduction, ideation, idea recording and sharing, group discussion, and voting and ranking.

Other connected business strategy frameworks

PESTEL Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

STEEP Analysis

The STEEP analysis is a tool used to map the external factors that impact an organization. STEEP stands for the five key areas on which the analysis focuses: socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political. Usually, the STEEP analysis is complementary or alternative to other methods such as SWOT or PESTEL analyses.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition. Published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s. The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

BCG Matrix

In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

Balanced Scorecard

First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.

Blue Ocean Strategy

A blue ocean is a strategy where the boundaries of existing markets are redefined, and new uncontested markets are created. At its core, there is value innovation, for which uncontested markets are created, where competition is made irrelevant. And the cost-value trade-off is broken. Thus, companies following a blue ocean strategy offer much more value at a lower cost for the end customers.

Scenario Planning

Businesses use scenario planning to make assumptions on future events and how their respective business environments may change in response to those future events. Therefore, scenario planning identifies specific uncertainties – or different realities and how they might affect future business operations. Scenario planning attempts at better strategic decision making by avoiding two pitfalls: underprediction, and overprediction.

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