This is a very popular method and many people have contacted us about how and when this technique can be used.

Recommended reading on this subject is as follows:

  • "Involving Patients and the Public. How to do it better" by Ruth Chambers.

  • "Using the Nominal Group Technique Effectively", an article by D. Scott Sink.


This section will provide the following information on the Nominal Group Technique:

What is the Nominal Group Technique?

According to D. Scott Sink in his article "Using the Nominal Group Technique Effectively", it was originally a technique to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of program planning in health services.

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When can it be used?

The Nominal Group Technique can be used when specific topics or problems arise. The technique is used to identify them and, using a group setting, allows solutions to be thought out, analysed and plans for their implementation to be considered.

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How is it used?

The Nominal Group Technique can be split into five main stages:

  1. Idea - for five to ten minutes delegates write down ideas based on the question/s posed.

  2. "Round Robin" stage - each delegate reads out one of their ideas with their best one first and these are jotted down onto a larger piece of paper, blackboard or flipchart.

  3. Clarification - At this stage each idea is discussed more widely and clarified; duplicate ideas are brought together and the individual ideas are numbered.

  4. Voting - from the ideas which are numbered the delegates prioritise them based on an agreed voting system.

  5. Action - the group discuss their plan of action and, based on the outcome of the vote, with the intent of reaching agreement on how they will deal with the original question.
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What are the advantages?
  • Many ideas are generated - obviously the more ideas that are generated the wider range of options the group will have to decide upon.

  • Technique is useful for identifying problems, exploring solutions and establishing priorities - the Nominal Group Technique can be used as a total assessment tool in that it can be used to identify the problem, generate solutions and implement them.

  • Encourages everyone to contribute and prevents people from dominating the discussion - this allows everyone's opinions to be heard and judged equally.

  • Participants are equal members of the group.

  • It is a way of involving the "grassroots" in the decision-making process.

  • Participants may be of mixed backgrounds - a variety of different people suggest a variety of different perspectives and priorities.

  • The written generation of ideas encourages the commitment of the participants in taking part in the planned action.

  • Requires only one skilled facilitator.

  • Nominal Group Technique produces an answer with few resources.

  • Decisions are made at the close of the meeting.
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What are the disadvantages?
  • People have to be able to read and write - this is something, which should not be taken for granted and such assumptions can prove dangerous and threatening to the outcome of the activity.

  • Group members have to make themselves available for the required time - this can prove difficult but must be attempted.

  • The ideas may be ill informed or impractical - it must be explained that the process being carried out is not being done so in a hypothetical sense but is a realistic problem requiring realistic solutions.

  • For the Nominal Group Technique to be a success those in authority must accept their conclusions or they must participate in the activity themselves.

  • The Nominal Group Technique is a good stand-alone technique for simple issues but must be combined with other techniques where the issue is more complicated or affects people outside the sphere of influence within the group.
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The Nominal Group Technique Flowchart

The flowchart for the Nominal Group Technique gives a visual indication on how this technique should work. The flowchart is available in two different formats - Word and as a web page. Please click your choice below.

Word Format
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