Nominal Group Technique

When you work in a group, you often have to come to some sort of consensus on what your priorities should be. It is not always easy to do so, particularly when the group members have different motives and different goals. The Nominal Group Technique is a means of reaching consensus when you have a diverse group and when having each member ‘buy-in’ to the decision is important for the success of the team.

While in a group, you create a list of issues that you think you need to prioritize. Use a flipchart or other means of capturing the issues. Make sure that everyone participates. If you think there are those people in the group who would be uncomfortable listing their concerns, you can do this exercise in writing and keep it anonymous, but doing it in a group is good because it helps facilitate discussion and can let you clarify the ideas and issues that are listed.

Once you have identified the list, see if there are items in the list that can be grouped together. For example, if you had on the list ‘poor response from technical support’ and ‘technical support takes too long to reply,’ you could group those two together. Make sure that the group agrees with the way you are grouping them; you might have misunderstood what the person was trying to say.

Once you have a final list, have each person rank what they feel is the most important to the least important issue to be solved. Encourage them to think of each item in terms of the impact it has on their results. Is something just an annoyance or a pet peeve, or does it actually have a definite impact on the way that they are able to work? If there are 10 issues, the ranking should be 1 to 10 with 10 being the most important and 1 being the least important.

What you end up with is a data set that you can use to determine what the group feels is the priority issue to work on. For example, you might end up with data that looks like that in following Figure. As you go through this exercise, explain to the group what you are doing so that they understand the results and they realize that the exercise is a fair way to determine what to work on first.

In the example in this Figure, there is a strong sense from the group that Issue 2 is the least important issue that you are facing. The group has also determined that the most important issue is Issue 4. If you decide to assign priority to work assignments using this method, you would focus on those that would improve Issue 4 before moving on to Issue 6 and so on. In a case where your scores are tied for an issue, you may have to make the decision using another tool or simply ask your supervisor which item they would prefer that you work on.


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