How to Facilitate the Nominal Group Technique

How often have you elicited items such as problems, solutions, or implementation ideas from meeting participants? This sounds simple, but often, participants disagree. The meeting can turn into quicksand. Let's look at the Nominal Group Technique (NGT), a powerful technique for reaching consensus.

Imagine that you are planning to facilitate a session to identify the strengths of your organization. What technique would you use to capture their ideas? How would you prioritize the list?

Facilitator leading meeting

What is the Nominal Group Technique?

The nominal group technique is a structured method for group brainstorming that allows every participant to have an equal voice.  It is a particularly effective tool for larger groups.  The technique saves time, engages participants, and improves the probability of agreement.

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How to Facilitate the Nominal Group Technique

1.

The facilitator asks the participants to identify items such as a company's greatest strengths. NGT can be used for brainstorming anything.

2.

The participants write down their ideas or items. Explain that there should be no discussions between participants. This avoids the issue of group think.

3.

The facilitator conducts a round robin asking each participant for one idea each round and captures the items on a flipchart, white marker board, or cling sheets. Participants may “pass” if they have no idea to share in a round. The round robin is complete when all ideas have been captured. Brainstorming rules apply.

4.

Discuss all items to ensure everyone has a good understanding of the items. You may sometimes wish to combine some items.

5.

Prioritize the list. I like to use is the 3-2-1 method. Participants rank the items by assigning 3 points to the most important, 2 points to the second most important, and 1 point to the third most important.


The facilitator might say, “Now I would like for you to write down the top three strengths. Assign a value of 3 for the greatest strength. Give a value of 2 by the second greatest strength. Assign a value of 1 by the third greatest strength.”

6.

Complete another round robin. Ask the participants for their votes. Total the votes. The items with the highest totals are the top choices.


In the example below, the top strengths were:

  1. Leadership team (7)
  2. Software systems (6)
  3. Sales distribution system (4)
7.

Discuss the results. Ask the participants if they feel the results are valid. Would they change the priority of any of the items? Seek consensus.

Your Turn

The next time you need to brainstorm and prioritize a list of items, consider the Nominal Group Technique. Try the technique on something simple at first. This will allow you to gain experience and tweak the process.

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