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Evaluating Ideas and Deciding: The "Nominal Group" Technique

The nominal group technique is a narrowing and decision-making method that allows the input of all group members while it minimizes group debate. This is an especially useful tool when there might be people who will dominate the group or others who have a hard time expressing their opinions.


Key Points To Take Away

--- Use the nominal group technique to give each person an equal voice.
--- Invite comments, but not discussion.
--- Don't use the nominal group technique to avoid important differences or conflicts that require group discussion.

For example: As the director of your high school's girls-select chorus you want to give your eight students a chance to plan their concert program. Using the nominal group technique, you
  • Start by listing on a board or chart the six songs from which the students can choose. Write a letter alongside each song title; write A next to the first song title, B next to the second title F next to the sixth song title.
  • Create grids on two sheet of chart paper. Write A, B, C, D, E and F horizontally across the top of both charts. Write the names of the students vertically down the left side of each chart.
  • Without discussion, each student decides her order of preference for the six options given. She ranks each option with a number from one to six. (Her top choice is 1, second choice is 2, and so on.) Record each students' priorities on the first grid. INSERT GRAPHIC HERE: greatmeetings024chart.jpg CENTER GRAPHIC IN SPACE


  • Then give the girls the opportunity to explain their ranking of "A." Remind the girls that this is a time to listen to comments that others make, not to discuss or debate them. Some sample comments might include the following:
    --- Jewell says: "Option A is an awesome piece, but we don't know it well at all -- therefore I ranked it number 5."
    --- Andrea says: "I ranked it number 1 because it is so beautiful. I know we can learn it in time."
  • After hearing students' thoughts about selection A, the group goes on to offer comments on B, C, D, E and F.
  • Next, give each person the opportunity to re-order her list based on the comments that have been made.
  • On the second grid record each person's final order of preference and then tally the scores. (Remember, since the number 1 is assigned to the students' highest priority song, the selection that earns the lowest score will actually be the group's first choice.)
  • Finally, invite the group to look at the results. Do they make sense? Do they produce a balanced concert?

For more information about this technique and others for making decisions in meetings, order your copy of Great Meetings! Great Results today.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Voting and super-voting as decision-making tools.

About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

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