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Nominal Group Technique (NGT) Related Topics

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:

Nominal Group Technique Steps

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

Nominal Group Technique (NGT) Example

Nominal Group Technique Considerations

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

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Nominal Group Technique

Published: July 6, 2022 by iSixSigma Staff

While there are many group methods for solving an issue or reaching a goal , the nominal group technique differs in a few key ways. Let’s look at what the nominal group technique is and what makes it unique.

What is the nominal group technique?

Like other group problem-solving methods, the nominal group technique involves utilizing a group to make decisions, solve problems, and generate solutions. The difference with this technique is that, with this method, every member of the group shares their view of the situation. From here, any duplicate solutions are eliminated, and what is left is ranked in order of preference by vote. The most favored solution is then decided as the decision to run with.

There is an alternative version of this method that focuses on hybridization, in that, various solutions combine to create hybrids. This way, a sort of super-solution can be created that uses the most favorable aspects of the solutions proposed.

3 benefits of the nominal group technique

There are some clear benefits to utilizing the nominal group technique over other group participation methods which should not be overlooked:

1. Efficiency

This technique can be an ideal way to gather everyone’s ideas quickly and come to a consensus.

2. Better ideas

Since this technique is so collaborative and democratic, better ideas might be heard than in other group technique options.

3. Equal participation

This technique, in its design, fosters the equal participation of all members of the group.

Why is the nominal group technique important to understand?

Understanding how the nominal technique works can be useful in the workplace for the following reasons:

1. It is useful if you find some group members tend to dominate.

If you have had experiences where a few group members have dominated the proceedings, leaving little room for others, this group technique is worth understanding as an alternative.

2. This technique is a great introduction for new team members.

Understanding how to implement the nominal group technique gives you a tool to get a feel for new team members as it encourages their equal participation and input.

3. Power imbalance

If there is a dynamic in the workplace where some key individuals hold the bulk of the power, the nominal group technique can act as a great leveler.

An industry example of the nominal group technique

A toy company is having difficulty deciding what product would be best to lead with for the upcoming year. A group meeting is called, where the nominal group technique will be utilized. Ten members from throughout the company are chosen to be part of the group.

At the beginning of the meeting, a team leader introduces each member of the team. Each participant is given a sheet of paper and is asked to list all of their ideas about which product would be best. Once everyone has written down their ideas, each participant is asked to share them with the group. Once everyone has shared, a group discussion takes shape where all of the ideas are discussed. Finally, voting and ranking of the ideas take place. It is ultimately decided to release the top three choices at the beginning of the new year.

5 best practices when thinking about the nominal group technique

Each stage of the nominal group technique has at least one practice to consider that will likely contribute to a more successful meeting:

1. Maintain a feeling of equality in the introduction phase

Foster a feeling of equal footing early on in the process by not putting any emphasis on any member of the group during the introduction phase of the meeting. Briefly introduce everyone in a manner that has them on the same footing and explain the process and procedure.

2. Independent generation of ideas

During the next phase, when each participant is to be writing down their ideas, be sure to make sure this happens in silence without collaboration.

3. Avoid debate as ideas are being shared

At the next stage, when participants go around the table sharing their ideas, there will possibly be an inclination for some members to begin to debate the merits of different ideas. Preemptively avoid this by making sure that everyone understands what the rules are for the exercise.

4. Do not spend too long on a single idea

During the group discussion, there could be the temptation to spend a lot of time on a single solution. This should be avoided. By allowing any one idea to take a longer amount of time in the spotlight, the voting process could be influenced.

5. Share the results immediately

When the voting is done, share the results immediately so that it feels like there is a swift feeling of closure to the process .

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the nominal group technique

1. what is the difference between the nominal group technique and brainstorming.

The tallying and equal participation in the nominal group technique separate it from brainstorming.

2. How many people participate in the nominal group technique?

The technique works best with 5 to 10 participants, but it works well with large groups as well.

3. Is the nominal group technique anonymous?

This technique is definitely not anonymous during the sharing of ideas portion of the group discussion. The ranking itself is anonymous.

The nominal group technique democratizes your group problem-solving sessions

If you have tried other group problem-solving techniques and found that they left a lot of room for improvement, the nominal group technique has many built-in attributes that could make for a more satisfactory process.

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Nominal Group Technique (NGT): Stages, Benefits, Examples

Read it in 15 Mins

What are the Stages of Nominal Group Technique?

How does nominal group technique work, when to use nominal group technique, how to use nominal group technique, nominal group technique steps, effects of nominal group technique, ngt advantages and disadvantages, nominal group technique examples, frequently asked questions (faqs).

Nominal Group Technique (NGT): Stages, Benefits, Examples

Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a problem-solving and decision-making process that can be used in various ways. It involves gathering a group of people to discuss a problem or issue and then rating the ideas or solutions that are put forward. The technique can be used in business, project management, or academic settings, and several stages need to be followed to get the most out of NGT.    

So, how is the Nominal Group Technique (NGT) used? What benefits does it offer? This article will answer these questions and more. First, we'll explore what NGT is and how it works.  To cut down the time and improve the quality, NGT technique should be carried out perfectly by regularly brushing up the skills by going for  Project Management professional course online  and other certifications.    

What is  Nominal Group Technique ?  

The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a tool that is used to generate ideas and reach a consensus. The technique was developed in the late 1960s by Andre Delbecq and Andrew Van de Ven and has since been used in various settings, from business to education to government. The basic structure of NGT involves four steps: brainstorming, idea reduction, idea prioritization, and consensus building.  Participants are encouraged to generate as many ideas as possible in the first step without judgment or discussion. In the second step, participants work together to reduce the list of ideas to a manageable number.    

In the third step, each participant ranks the remaining ideas in order of importance. Finally, in the fourth step, the group works together to reach a consensus on the most important ideas. NGT is an effective tool for generating new ideas and reaching an agreement within a group.  However, it is important to note that NGT is not well suited for complex problems that require critical thinking and analysis. Additionally, NGT can be time-consuming, so it is important to consider whether it is the best tool for the task.     

The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a structured brainstorming process that encourages all group members to contribute their ideas equally. This decision-making technique can generate ideas, solve problems, or make decisions. There are four stages to the Nominal Group Technique:   

The technique is often used in business settings but can also be applied in other areas, such as education and healthcare. Here's a look at how NGT works and how it can be used to achieve success:  

1. Brainstorming

In the first stage of the NGT, each group member brainstormed independently for a set period (usually 5-10 minutes). During this time, members are encouraged to generate as many ideas as possible without judging or critiquing them.    

Once the brainstorming period is over, each member now ranks their ideas from most to least important. Each idea is then given a score based on its rank; for example, an idea that is ranked first would receive a score of 4 (if there are 4 members in the group), while an idea that is ranked last would receive a score of 1.   

3. Discussion

The next stage is to discuss the ideas that received the highest scores. Members should try to reach a consensus on which ideas are most promising or have the most potential.    

4. Consensus

In the final stage, the group decides how to move forward with the ideas generated during the brainstorming session. This may involve further discussion, refinement of ideas, or development of a plan of action. The NGT is one of the flexible group decision-making techniques that can be adapted to fit the needs of any group; it is an especially useful tool for groups that are trying to generate new ideas or solve complex problems.  

Where is the Nominal Group Technique Used?

The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a tool that can be used to generate ideas and reach a consensus. It is particularly helpful when there is a need to explore a complex issue or when there are competing perspectives. NGT can be used with a small group of people or adapted for larger groups. The NGT decision-making technique involves four steps: idea generation, round-robin voting, ranking, and discussion.    

After each step, the NGT group facilitator will summarize the results and see if there is consensus. If not, the group will continue to the next step. NGT is an effective tool for reaching a consensus on complex issues, and it can be adapted to different group sizes and needs.  

Who Should Use Nominal Group Technique?

The Nominal Group Technique can be used in various settings, from the classroom to the boardroom. When used correctly, it can help groups to generate ideas, reach a consensus, and make decisions. However, not every group is well suited to using NGT. In general, small groups (5-10 members), diverse and have a clear purpose, are more likely to benefit from using this technique.    

Additionally, groups that have difficulty generating ideas or reaching consensus may also find NGT to be helpful. If you are unsure whether your NGT group would benefit from using it, it is best to consult an expert. With the help of a skilled facilitator, you can ensure that your group makes the most of this powerful tool.  

The key advantage of NGT is that it allows all group members to contribute their ideas without being influenced by others. This makes it ideal for situations where there is a need to explore many different options or to reach an agreement on a complex issue.     

To use NGT, gather a group of people and give each a pen and paper. Explain that the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible on the given topic. Each person should write down their ideas independently, without discussing them with others.    

Once everyone has finished, the facilitator should collect all ideas and read them aloud. The group should then vote on their favorite ideas, with the most popular ones recorded for further discussion. NGT can generate ideas on almost any topic, making it a valuable tool for individuals and groups.  

Uses for NGT

This  Nominal group technique  can be used in various settings, including businesses, schools, and community organizations. One of the key benefits of the  nominal group technique  is that it encourages all group members to participate in the discussion.  

This technique can also help to identify the group's most popular ideas and any areas of disagreement. Additionally, the  nominal group technique  can prioritize ideas and create action plans. As such, it is an essential tool for any group that wants to work together effectively.  

The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a structured way for a group to generate ideas and reach a consensus. It is particularly useful for groups who may have difficulty reaching an agreement or when you want to ensure that all members have an equal opportunity to contribute. The technique involves six steps:    

What is the Standard Procedure of Nominal Group Technique?

The basic procedure of nominal group technique steps is here below:

The nominal group technique (NGT) is a facilitation method used to generate ideas and reach a consensus. The process involves a small group of people coming together to discuss a topic, with each person sharing their ideas independently. Once everyone has had a chance to share their thoughts, the group brainstorms possible solutions or courses of action.    

The NGT is an effective way to generate new ideas and achieve consensus because it allows everyone in the group to have their say without the pressure of coming up with an idea on the spot.    

Additionally, the independent sharing of ideas helps prevent the group's dominant voices from overwhelming the conversation. However, it is important to note that the NGT is inappropriate for all situations. For example, if time is limited or there are already strongly-held opinions in the group, another facilitation method may be more effective.  

NGT Advantages

This NGT process is particularly useful when many stakeholders have diverse opinions or when the topic is sensitive and people are reluctant to share their views publicly. Some of the main nominal group technique advantages are that it is:   

If you are considering using NGT in your next meeting or facilitation sessions, keep in mind that it is important to have a clear objective and focus for the group and to give participants enough time to generate and discuss their ideas. With careful planning and facilitation, NGT can be a powerful tool for generating new ideas and reaching consensus.  

NGT Disadvantages

Although the nominal group technique is a highly effective decision-making tool, it does have a few potential disadvantages.   

1. Product Development

The product development process is full of important decision points, from deciding which features to include in a new product to deciding on a go-to-market strategy. The nominal group technique can be used at each stage of the product development process to ensure that all stakeholders have a say in the decisions. For example, NGT can gather input from engineers, designers, marketers, and salespeople on what features should be included in a new product.    

2. Customer Service Improvement 

Generating ideas for improving customer service can be challenging, especially if your team is stuck in a rut. The nominal group decision-making technique jumpstarts the brainstorming process by soliciting input from customer service reps, managers, and customers. Once you've collected a list of ideas, you can use NGT again to prioritize which ideas are worth pursuing.    

3. Marketing Campaign Planning 

From choosing the right mix of channels to determining your budget allocation, many important decisions are needed when planning a marketing campaign. The nominal group technique helps you make these decisions by gathering input from your marketing team and other stakeholders, such as salespeople and finance professionals.    

4. Human Resources Strategy Development

Human resources strategies must align with the overall business strategy to be effective. The nominal group technique in project management assists you in developing an HR strategy that meets the needs of your business by soliciting input from employees, managers, and executives. This input can be used to develop an HR strategy that meets the needs of your business while also being achievable and realistic.    

To have a detailed insight into the NGT process and its applications, you must have the expertise to align with the trends of the changing market landscape.

The Nominal Group Technique is an extremely beneficial tool that can be used in various ways to improve communication and decision-making. By understanding the different stages of the technique, as well as the benefits and examples associated with it, you, too, can start using NGT in your work. Take  KnowledgeHut Project Management professional course online  and get acquainted with the latest concepts and strategies on Nominal Group techniques in project management.

1. What are Nominal Group Technique examples?

The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a process that allows a group of people to generate ideas and reach consensus on a particular issue. The technique is often used in business settings, as it can help to promote creativity and collaboration among employees. Some common examples of NGT include Product Development, Customer Service Improvement,  Marketing Campaign Planning, Human Resources Strategy Development, etc.  

2. Where is the Nominal Group Technique used?

The  Nominal Group Technique  is a tool used to help groups generate ideas and reach a consensus. It is often used in business meetings, classrooms, and research groups. The technique involves asking participants to brainstorm ideas independently and then share them with the group. Once all ideas have been shared, the group votes on the best ones. The Nominal Group Technique is an effective way to generate many ideas and reach a consensus within a group.  

3. What are the four stages of the Nominal Group Technique?

There are four stages to the  Nominal Group Technique :  

4. What is the difference between Nominal Group Technique and Brainstorming?

When we talk about  nominal group technique Vs brainstorming  , both are methods of generating ideas, but they differ in how those ideas are generated and organized. NGT is a structured process in which a group of people anonymously generate ideas, which are then compiled and votes are cast to prioritize the ideas.   

On the other hand, brainstorming is a more free-flowing process in which ideas are generated spontaneously and then discussed and refined as a group. While NGT can be more efficient at generating many ideas, brainstorming may be better at producing creative or unexpected solutions.  



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nominal group problem solving definition

Nominal Group Technique Training

Learn about this group problem-solving and solution generating approach..

Teams that struggle to be productive and efficient in brainstorming and problem-solving sessions may be interested in the nominal group technique (NGT). This approach requires input from everyone involved to help the group come up with a decision that offers the best outcome. Learn more about the approach and its uses below in our short NGT training guide.

What is nominal group technique (NGT)?

nominal group problem solving definition

NGT is a group process that involves identifying problems, generating solutions, and decision making. Groups of all sizes can work together to make decisions quickly by a vote. The difference here is that every member of the group will share and explain their view of the situation. Then, duplicate solutions are eliminated from the list and the members then rank the remaining solutions from 1st to 2nd and 3rd and so on.

The numbers each solution receives are totaled, and the solution with the highest (most favored) ranking is selected as the final decision.

An alternative version of this method encourages hybrid idea creations where parts of two or more ideas are combined. Through the combination of different aspects of ideas, the group may find that they reach better overall solutions to their initial problem.

Nominal Group Technique Video

Nominal Group Technique Steps

The Wikipedia page is well researched with a fine collection of footnotes and resources and shares these five stages of NGT.

Uses for NGT

NGT has been applied to many different industries and project areas. When it comes to innovation and design thinking, the technique can prove useful for gathering everyone’s input and coming to a consensus quickly and efficiently. Because of the collaborative and democratic nature of the technique, teams may find themselves more likely to reach better quantity ideas in a faster time frame than some other brainstorming and innovation techniques.

Nominal group technique training options

If you’d like custom assistance walking through an NGT session or facilitating an innovation or design thinking workshop , Innovation Training is here to help! Contact us with any questions you may have!

Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a fast-paced methodology that can be useful in brainstorming and collaborative problem-solving.

Looking for more resources and guides? Review these other relevant articles.

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Nominal Group Technique Lean Six Sigma Simplified

Nominal Group Technique Definition, Examples Steps

In this post, we will talk about Nominal Group Technique, commonly referred to as NGT. Nominal Group Technique is a structured method of brainstorming, where the participants come with ideas on their own rather than as a group. And then, the group collectively evaluates, ranks them according to their importance and agree upon these generated ideas. We will look at what Nominal Group Technique is, when and how to perform nominal group technique, its advantages and disadvantages as well as a few examples where this technique can be used.

Nominal Group Technique – An alternative to traditional brainstorming

Imagine the traditional way of brainstorming. You put a few people in a room and put a problem in front of them to discuss and solve. All the participants start throwing their ideas on the table. Some more vocally than others. You will notice some people in such a group who do not participate, or maybe participate less than others.

You will also find on multiple occasions, that the group gets hanged-up on a particular idea. And keeps discussing the same for the whole duration of the session. This prevents further idea generation and halts the process, you always have limited time for such discussions. Furthermore, it also happens that, at the end of such sessions, the final output is not concrete or tangible enough as you would have expected.

This is because, traditional group brainstorming exercise lacks a structure or defined process. It is a free flowing discussion. The facilitator might sometimes be able to solve for such problems but not always.

Nominal Group Technique solves for such shortcomings of traditional brainstorming exercise and provide you with better results.

So, what exactly is NGT? Let’s see.

What is Nominal Group Technique?

Simple, think of it as structured brainstorming .

Nominal Group Technique is a highly structured, face to face group discussion method where every participant is provided an opportunity to participate. Where opinions of all participants are considered equally important and are heard by other members.

It takes the brainstorming process a notch ahead by adding a voting process. And not just a simple voting process but a relative ranking process. This is in addition to the discussions off-course. This allows the participants to be more engaged in the discussion, and thereby, in solution design.

Nominal means ‘in name only’. Thus, although this is a group technique, it is so, only in name. It is more of individual exercise than a group activity. It is an individual activity which is done as part of a group. Hence the name, Nominal Group Technique.

Delbecq and Van de Ven are the two people who designed and conceptualised Nominal Group Technique. Their original design has 4 key steps which we will discuss below.

Nominal Group Technique Steps

The four steps provide the structure to this technique. You should follow these steps once you have decided on the problem that you wish to solve for. And when you have finalised the list of people or participants who will take part in this discussion.

Let’s look at each of these steps.

Stage 1 – Silent idea generation

In the first stage of Nominal Group Technique, the facilitator first explains the problem which the group needs to solve. Problem definition as well as the explanation has to be clear enough for all the participants. This will ensure the correct understanding of the problem. And thereby help come up with relevant ideas or solutions to solve the problem.

The first stage is about silent, individual idea generation. In this stage, you give sufficient time to the participants to come up with ideas and solutions on their own. The participants, individually think about the problem and come up with their own solutions. They can also use a notepad to jot down these ideas.

The participants should not talk to each other or discuss the solution at this stage. This is important because you do not want to influence the thought process of any participant. And you want everyone to contribute to the best of their capability. Plus, more heads thinking on their own, will generate more and diverse ideas.

This stage should not be for more than 15 or 20 minutes. Do remember, more time does not mean more ideas. If the participants can think of ideas, they will do so in the first 5 or 10 minutes itself. Extending the time for this session beyond 20 minutes will just waste time and not add any incremental value.

The facilitator ends stage one once the allotted time is over. And we move on to stage 2.

Stage 2 – Round robin idea collation

Stage 2 of Nominal Group Technique is the round robin stage for idea collation.

The facilitator puts up a chart paper on the whiteboard or the wall. Then she asks each participant to share one idea each and notes this idea on the chart. You follow the round robin method for this stage. Each participant shares only one idea. And then the facilitator moves to the next participant. And keeps listing down the ideas one after the other on the chart.

Again, no discussions at this stage. The participants only shares the idea and do not justify it or provide any explanation at this stage. This is again to avoid any bias or influence on others. We get sufficient time to discuss these ideas in the next stage, but not at this stage.

Nominal Group Technique Step 2 - LSS Simplified

The participants are allowed to think about more ideas or solutions at this stage. While the group is sharing their ideas, others can think and come up with more ideas. However, they can not share these ideas as they come to them. They will need to wait their turn.

If a participant does not have an idea to share when his or her turn comes, they can chose to pass as well. The facilitator ends this step when all participants run out of ideas and have no more ideas to share.

Stage 3 – Clarification and discussion

The third step in Nominal Group Technique is to clarify and discuss the ideas generated. In this step, participants get a chance to clarify and expand on the ideas that they shared so that the group understands it better. The group discusses every idea at this stage. The idea owner explains their ideas and provide any clarifications needed.

The facilitator should be vigilant so as to not allow anyone to shoot down any idea. You should not eliminate any idea at this stage. The aim of the discussion is just to understand the ideas better.

You can also group similar ideas together, however, with acceptance from all the participants. The original idea owner can alter the ideas if needed post discussion.

Once everyone understands every idea that is listed, this step ends and we move to the next and final step of Nominal Group Technique.

Stage 4 – Voting (Ranking of generated ideas)

Step 4 in Nominal Group Technique is the multi-voting process for all generated ideas. In this step, each participant rates each idea on a predefined rating scale. The ratings describe the importance and/or relevance of the ideas in terms of solving the problem at hand. If a participant thinks a particular idea is very effective to solve the problem at hand, she rates it higher, and vice versa.

A point to remember. The facilitator should ensure that the group does not see each others ratings. The ratings are kept confidential till the voting process is complete. You do this step as an individual activity. This is to ensure that the ratings are not biased and participants do not influence each others ratings.

Ideally, the facilitator provides a list of ideas to each participant. The participants then rate each idea on the defined rating scale. The facilitator collects all these sheets when all the participants have rated all the ideas. And consolidates the ratings.

If you are using technology for this exercise, each participant can fill in their rating on a excel sheet and share the same with the facilitator who can then consolidate everyone’s ratings.

The facilitator sums up the ratings for each idea. This sum is called NGT score. The ideas are then ranked based on the NGT score. Ideas with highest NGT scores are selected as these are the ideas which the whole group thinks, are most relevant and effective to solve the problem at hand.

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Relative ranking in Nominal Group Technique

Stage 4 of Nominal Group Technique warrants a detailed explanation. This stage gives you the final output from the exercise and it’s important its done correctly. Below are the steps you should follow to the the most relevant and effective solutions, as agreed by the group.

Step 1: Prepare Nominal Group Technique template for voting

The facilitator should list down all the generated ideas from step 3 above in the first column of NGT template. The next columns should have participants names as column headers. The last column is for the final NGT score for each solution. The template should look like the one shown below.

Nominal Group Technique Template - LSS Simplified

Step 2: Define NGT rating scale

You need to define the rating scale to be used for the exercise. It can be a simple discrete rating scale of 1 to 10 or 1 to 5. In such a scale, higher the impact or relevance of the solutions, higher should be the rating. And vice versa.

In this example, we will use the scale of 1 to 5 for simplicity. Here a rating of 5 means the solutions will very effectively solve the problem at hand. A rating of 1 will mean that the solution is irrelevant and does not solve the problem at hand.

Step 3: Ask participants to rate each solution

The facilitator then ask each participant to rate each solution, using the rating scale as defined above. This exercise needs to be done individually by each participant. The ratings from the participants should be kept absolutely confidential and not to be shared with others to avoid bias.

Once this step is done, the NGT template with the facilitator will look similar this.

Nominal Group Technique Participant Voting - LSS Simplified

Step 4: Calculate NGT score

Once the facilitator collates the ratings from each participant for all solutions, its time to calculate the NGT score. This is the sum of ratings from all participants for each individual idea. The updated template looks like below.

Nominal Group Technique NGT Score - LSS Simplified

Step 5: Define NGT threshold

NGT threshold is the value for NGT score above which you will treat the solution as relevant and prioritize for implementation.

As a thumb rule, the NGT threshold should be half the maximum possible NGT score.

Lets assume, you have 6 participants in the NGT exercise. And you are using a rating scale of 1 to 5. Hence, the maximum rating a participant can give to a solution is 5. If all 6 participants give the maximum possible rating to a single solution, you get the maximum possible NGT score of 6 X 5, that is 30.

Half of this maximum possible NGT score (15) is your NGT threshold.

Step 6: Shortlist solutions

Now that you have the NGT threshold as well as the NGT scores for each solution, you can go ahead and shortlist solutions from the list.

All solutions with NGT score above the NGT threshold (15 in our example) should be shortlisted.

Please remember, these are thumb rules. You can set up a different NGT threshold depending on your situation and needs.

nominal group problem solving definition

When to use Nominal Group Technique

Nominal Group Technique or NGT can be effectively used when

That’s all about Nominal Group Technique for now. I hope this helped.

For further reading, do click here to know how CDC uses Nominal Group Technique to gain consensus among its stakeholders and click here to read through University of Arkansas’s white paper on Nominal Group Technique . (opens in new tab)

If you have used NGT in any context during your career, I would love to hear about the experience, both good and bad 🙂 Do share your experience in the comment section below so all the readers can benefit.

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Sachin Naik

Passionate about improving processes and systems | Lean Six Sigma practitioner, trainer and coach for 14+ years consulting giant corporations and fortune 500 companies on Operational Excellence | Start-up enthusiast | Change Management and Design Thinking student | Love to ride and drive

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5 thoughts on “ Nominal Group Technique Definition, Examples Steps ”

You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and hardly found any specific details on other sites, but then great to be here, seriously, thanks.

Thanks for finally writing about Nominal Group Technique. I have been struggling to understand how to implement this. The step by step approach helped a lot. And the template was a delighter. Loved it!

They ought to be proficient about the most recent improvements. Moreover, they need to utilize it in the applications.

Although Nominal Group technique seems fairly easy as a tool, but the application of this tool has a lot of Do’s and Don’ts. The template and step by step instructions on how to perform Nominal Group Technique were immensely helpful. Specially the part on when to use Nominal Group Technique and when not to.

I have gone through with above steps and details explanation. it is good thing to let involve everyone in the team and ask them to share ideas. it would be very helpful for new idea generation.

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nominal group problem solving definition

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The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a structured method that involves identifying a problem, generating solutions for solving that problem, and then deciding which one best solves the identified problem. You can use it when working in groups, so everyone has an equal say. Voting is used to make decisions to ensure that every opinion has been considered.

KEY Takeaways

The NGT process is based on the following steps:

1. Introduction / Identify the Issue:  This step requires you to identify a problem or issue. The group will need to agree on what they want to solve before they start brainstorming ideas .

2. Silent Generation of Ideas: Everyone silently thinks of as many potential answers to solve the problem as possible in a set period of time. They write these down.

3. Share Ideas: Each member shares a single idea at a time by rotation, and the facilitator is expected to put that on a flip chart without any discussion. If a person has finished all their ideas, they will pass their turn. In the later turn, the person might add an idea. Continue till the facilitator has collected all ideas.

4. Discuss:  Each idea is then discussed for more clarity. The group might combine similar ideas in this process.

5. Prioritize (Voting and Ranking): Prioritize ideas based on multi-voting or other techniques.

Advantages of Nominal Group Technique:

Disadvantages of Nominal Group technique:

The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) works well if your audience is already somewhat familiar with the topic you're discussing. When I've done it with complete novices, we usually end up with something basic and obvious.

nominal group problem solving definition

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nominal group problem solving definition

Process Improvement Toolbox

Nominal Group Technique

The nominal group technique (ngt) is designed to promote group participation in the decision-making process.

The Nominal Group Technique can be used by small groups to reach consensus on the identification of key problems or in the development of solutions that can be tested using rapid-change cycles.

Within NIATx, a modified version of the NGT was used to solicit ideas that form the basis of the Promising Practices.

Frequently asked questions about the NGT


STEP 2: Silent idea generation

Step 3: round-robin recording of ideas, step 4: serial discussion of ideas, step 5: preliminary voting, step 6: discussion of preliminary voting, step 7: final voting, step 1: preparation.

Prior to using the Nominal Group Process, it is necessary for the meeting facilitator to complete a set of sequential preparatory tasks that set the stage for a successful meeting:

[Back to top]

Prior to starting, the group leader should prepare and present, in writing and verbally, the question that the group will consider during their meeting. A well-thought-out question will help generate a wealth of potential ideas. The leader will encourage participants to silently and independently write ideas in brief phrases.

The benefits of silent generation include:

Back to top

In this step, the group leader goes around the table and records one idea from each participant on the flip chart. The ideas should be recorded verbatim with little to no paraphrasing by the leader. However, leaders are allowed to ask questions for clarification of the idea. The process continues until all ideas have been recorded. When a participant is out of ideas, they should indicate by passing.

The benefits of the round-robin recording are that it:

In the NGT process, hitchhiking refers to a process that may stimulate other participants to think of an idea not recorded during silent generation and allows them to record and offer it during their turn.

This involves taking each idea, one at a time (serially) and discussing or clarifying the idea prior to the preliminary vote. The benefits of this step are that it:

During this stage, the group participants will begin to narrow the list of potential ideas. Building on the discussion of ideas, each member will make an independent judgment about those ideas that they consider most likely to represent the problem to be solved or the potential solution to address it.

The two voting methods, typically used, are ranking and rating.

Rating method: When rating the ideas, each participant distributes a set number of points (e.g., 100) across the ideas, as seen in the example table below:

As seen in the table above, each of the four team members distributed their points across the ten ideas they generated during Step 2 . Note that participants have the option of assigning all of their points to one idea if they feel strongly that it is truly the best (i.e., Sue). From the table, it can be seen that Idea 3 has the highest point total, and the team can end the NGT process at this point, and choose this option.

In another variation of this method, participants assign colored dots to ideas, using the same process.

Ranking method: When ranking items, each participant is asked to choose roughly half of the total number of ideas generated, and to rank these from most important to least important. This process will place emphasis on fewer ideas. In preparation for recording the vote, the leader should list the number of each idea on a separate piece of paper. When the actual votes are recorded, she/he will record the rank assigned by each participant to the idea, as seen in the example below.

As seen from the table above, Idea 3 has the highest score. In many instances, the NGT process will end after this step. If greater accuracy is desired, and especially if the group has generated a large number of ideas, the group may chose to engage in the following two additional steps ( Step 6 and 7 ), and iterate as many times as needed.

This brief step in the NGT process is designed to examine items with inconsistent voting patterns and provide an opportunity for a discussion of ideas perceived as receiving too many or too few votes. While this step seldom results in radical changes in how the groups perceives an idea, it can result in a more accurate final vote.

In this final step, individual judgments on the ideas are combined into a group decision. While the leader may chose to follow the same voting technique used in Step 5 , they also may choose to use a more refined voting technique such as rating.

The final vote helps:

FAQs about the Nominal Group Technique

Q: how many people can participate in an ngt group.

A: The ideal size of the group is five to nine persons. A group of this size provides different perspectives and critical judgment to analyze the problem and arrive a decision to address it. A smaller group does not ensure adequate participation in the decision process and while a larger group will generate more ideas, it will take too long to list, discuss, and vote on them.

Q: How can I use NGT with larger groups?

A: Divide the group into equal sub-groups. Each sub-group will complete steps 1 to 4 separately. During a pre-arranged 1 ½ hour lunch, the top 5 ideas from each sub-group are recorded, combining any duplicate ideas, and a master list of ideas is generated. The larger group then meets for discussion and a final vote on the top ideas.

Q: Should you eliminate duplicate items prior to preliminary voting?

A: When NGT is used for problem identification, idea elimination is not recommended. However, it is sometimes desirable to combine ideas if NGT is used for priority setting.

Q: When should ideas be combined or eliminated?

A: The process should take place after discussion but before preliminary voting.

Q: How should ideas be combined or eliminated?

A: Two approaches exist. First combine all ideas into a single factor. Second, the group would add a factor title but maintain the individual items that comprise the factor. For example, the factor might be "Reduce internal paperwork requirements" while the individual items might include (a) review forms—eliminate duplicate questions and discard no-longer-needed forms, (b) reduce number of questions and forms by asking the question "What is this information used for? How does it increase quality of access or retention?" or conducting a cost-benefit analysis and (c) combine all legal documents into one form and use a general waiver signature.

Note: During voting, the group would vote on the individual items not the combined factor.

Q: What is the difference between rating versus ranking as a voting method?

A: Several factors guide the process. First, the number of ideas. Ranking is easier with smaller lists, while rating works with larger lists as it reduces individual decisions regarding how to rate the ideas generated. Second, accuracy. Rating provides greater indication of individual preferences. Finally, gaming. Rating ideas provides an individual with the opportunity to drive idea selection towards their preference.

Q: How does rating work?

A: Assume that NGT generates ten ideas. Then individuals would rate their preference in order of most important (10) to least important (1). The scores across all individuals would be summarized to provide the final group preference for the ideas generated.

Q: How does ranking work?

A: Using the same ten ideas, the individual would be given 100 points to distribute across all ten ideas. In this instance, they can assign a larger portion of the points (e.g., 50) to one idea and then distribute the remaining 50 points across the other nine ideas. In essence they rank more highly the idea that they prefer the best.

Another variant of ranking is to provide the individuals with sticky dots equal to about half of the number of ideas generated and allow them to distribute the dots across multiple ideas or assign all of their dots to one idea.

Regardless of the approach, the final tally for each idea is determined by calculating the total ranking or dots assigned to each idea.

Q: How do you write a good NGT question?

A: A properly written question will help stimulate idea generation and is an important initial step. The recommended process involves: (a) staff discussion of the meeting objective, (b) a determination of the types of responses desired (e.g., depth and breadth), and (c) developing and pilot testing alternative questions with a sample group. Ultimately, good question writing comes from hard work and trial and error learning.

Q: How can I ensure that others will adapt the decisions reached at the NGT meeting in the organization?

A: You cannot. While group acceptance will be high, others in the organization will judge the ideas on acceptability and quality.

Q: Will more extroverted individuals still dominate the meeting, especially during discussions?

A: While these individuals may speak more during idea discussion, independent voting still allows individual input by group members into the selection of the final ideas.

Q: Who should be invited to participate in a NGT meeting?

A: Group members should have interest in and experience with the problem and be open minded enough to explore different points of view.

Q: What skills should the leader possess to overcome resistance to an unfamiliar technique?

A: She/he should understand the process; be self-confident enough to lead the group through the process and be accepted by peers in order to lead the group effectively.

Q: What are the advantages of the NGT?

A: It is useful when the decision-making process is complex and requires the pooling together of ideas from different individuals. Specifically, NGT helps identify the elements and potential solutions of a problem, and then allows group members to prioritize those solutions.

Q: When should the NGT not be utilized?

A: Time: it takes about 60 to 90 minutes to complete. Space: the physical layout of a room to support NGT may not be present. Focus: NGT deals only with one question or issue.

© Copyright 2023, CHESS/NIATx, University of Wisconsin-Madison . All rights reserved.


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