Organizational Development Consultant

Nineteen Techniques to Gather Information: #10 Nominal Group Process

June 30, 2014

“Our group needs some discipline. A few outspoken people seem to be influencing the thinking of the other meeting participants. If we are to truly benefit from everyone’s ideas, we need to find a way to eliminate this type of pressure. Do you have any ideas?”

#10  Nominal Group Process

What is Nominal Group Process?

Nominal Group Process is a technique that allows meeting participants to express themselves without immediate outside influence. The process involves having each group member individually think and write down their thoughts about an issue or problem before presenting them to the group verbally.

Nominal Group Process provides the time for participants to collect and articulate their own thoughts before they hear other perspectives. This creates fuller participation and assures that the most persuasive individuals in the group do not impact and alter the valuable input of the whole group.

When Do I Use Nominal Group Process?

  • When you want to make sure individuals are doing their own thinking
  • When you want to be sure that you hear from everyone in the meeting group
  • When you need a method to collect maximum ideas in minimal time

How Do I Use Nominal Group Process?

1. Introduce the issue or problem under consideration and the Nominal Group Process technique. You might say, for example, “Before we can solve this problem, we need to clearly understand it. Each of you has a slightly different perspective of the problem because of your different experience and areas of expertise. In order to fully understand everyone’s point of view, let’s use a technique called Nominal Group Process. This technique will allow us to each spend a few minutes thinking quietly and individually about the problem. We will then share our perspectives with each other so that we will have a more complete picture to consider.”

2. Ask each member to write down their ideas about the specific problem under consideration. Present the issue as a specific question or set of open ended questions, and post your questions on chart paper or an overhead. For example: “We’re having a problem delivering our goods on time. When does it happen?” “What is the cause of the problem?”

OPTION: Meeting participants can be asked to come to the meeting already prepared to share this information.

NOTE: Do not ask more than two questions or the process will be too slow. Do not use this method with big groups. Consider Card Clusters, a technique where individuals silently write their ideas on sticky notes and then cluster them into categories, instead.

3. Ask each participant to concisely share his or her thoughts, facts, or ideas with the group.

a. Chart each person’s comments, one chart for each question asked.

     NOTE: Post all charts around the room when the pages are full. (The participants will need them as visual aids later on.)

b. Allow other participants to ask questions for clarification, but they may not evaluate or elaborate further at this time.

     OPTION: Hold off on all questions for clarification until after all ideas from all participants have been documented.

4. Review all the shared information.

OPTION A: With input from the group, make a summary list that includes all information while eliminating duplications.

OPTION B: Review all information and select three or four that are most worthy of further exploration. Consider using Multivoting, where you give each participant a finite number of votes to place on their priorities, to accomplish this.

OPTION C: Ask the group for their reactions and conclusions. For example: “What patterns do you see? In what areas do we have general agreement? In what areas are there significant disagreements? What conclusions can we draw from this information? What additional information do we need to gather?” Chart the group’s responses.

5. Summarize your findings and determine how to proceed to address the uncovered issues and the problem overall.

OPTION:   Define the problem with one statement that deals comprehensively with all the information gathered. Use that statement as a basis for problem solving.

In Summary:

Nominal Group Process is a technique for gathering problem-solving information from all meeting participants individually and later evaluating and prioritizing that information as a group.

1. Introduce the issue or problem under consideration and the Nominal Group Process technique.

2. Ask each person to write his or her ideas to the question/s you have posed.

3. Ask each participant to share his or her responses to the questions. Chart their responses.

4. Review the information as a group.

5. Summarize your findings and determine how to proceed.


A.L. Debecq and A.H. Van de Ven, “A Group Process Model for Problem Identification and Program Planning”, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 7, 1971.


NOTE:  If you would like to receive e-mail notification when I post additional techniques, please sign up through this link.  You may unsubscribe at any time.

Leave a Reply