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NEEDS ASSESSMENT KNOWLEDGE BASE

NOMINALGROUPTECHNIQUE
PURPOSE
Thenominalgrouptechniqueisusedtoengageinconsensusplanningforthepurposeofprioritizingissues.

NEEDSASSESSMENTAPPLICATIONS
Whencollectingdataforaneedsassessment,prioritizingneeds,ormakingrecommendationsforaction
basedonneedsassessmentfindings,thenominalgrouptechniquecanbeavaluabletoolforfacilitating
groupdecisionmaking.Thistechniqueprovidesastructuredprocessforworkingwithgroupmembersto
prioritizetheirideas,concerns,orotherinputstothedecisioninaformatthatisbothinclusiveand
consensusbuilding.Duringdatacollection,forinstance,youcanuseanominalgrouptechniquetohelpa
unitordepartmentidentifypriorityperformancemeasuresorperspectivesondifficulttomeasure
indicatorsofresults.Similarly,whenmakingrecommendationsbasedonneedsassessmentfindingsyou
canusethenominalgrouptechniquetofacilitatetheprioritizationofneeds(i.e.,gapsinresults)inorderto
determinewhichordertheyshouldbeaddressedthroughassociatedperformanceinterventions.This
dynamicgroupdecisionmakingprocessisflexibleenoughthatyoumayusemultipletimesatdifferent
stepswithinyourneedsassessment;wheneveragroupwithmultipleperspectiveshastomakeadifficult
decision.

ADVANTAGESANDDISADVANTAGES
ADVANTAGES

Thenominalgrouptechniqueismorestructuredthanthetraditionalfocusgroupapproach.

Throughanominalgrouptechniqueeveryoneinthegroupisgivenanopportunitytocontributetothe
discussion,whileavoidingthelikelihoodofonepersondominatingthegroupprocess.

Thenominalgrouptechniquecanbeusedwithsmallgroupsaswellaswithalargernumberof
participants.

Youcangetasenseofpriorityconcernsrepresentedamongthemembersofthegroupbyusingthe
nominalgrouptechnique.

DISADVANTAGES

Thesynergismthatisexperiencedinmoreopenendedfocusgroupsmaynotdevelopaseasilyinthe
nominalgroupapproach.

WBI EVALUATION GROUP (2007)

NEEDS ASSESSMENT KNOWLEDGE BASE

Thenominalgrouptechniquemayfeelsomewhatmechanicaltosomeparticipants.Thiscanbe
circumventedtosomeextentbyensuringthatthefacilitatorshowsflexibilityinprocessand
implementation.

Whilethereisarangeofgroupsizeswithwhichthenominalgrouptechniquecanbeused,itishardto
implementiteffectivelywithlargeaudiencesunlessverycarefullyplannedbeforehand.

GENERALPROCEDURES
1. Fromthelistofinformationrequiredfortheneedsassessment,identifythoseelementsthatmaybestbe
attainedthroughthenominalfocusgrouptechnique.
2. Createafacilitatorsguideorprotocoltoguidethenominalfocusgroup.Intheprotocolensurethat
requiredinformationregardingboththecurrentresultsandthedesiredresultsoftheneedsassessment
arerepresented,alongwiththerequiredinformationateachleveloftheprogram/projectresultschain.
3. Scheduleattimeforthefocusgroupwhenthehighestpriorityparticipantsareallavailable.Verifythat
youhaveafocusgroupfacilitatoravailableatthescheduledtime.
4. Tobeginthenominalfocusgroup,giveeachgroupmembersomepaperandawritingimplement.
5. Presentthesingletopicforthesessiontothegroupmembers.Forexample,thegroupmemberscouldbe
presentedwithacontextforwhythegroupismeeting,andaskedtoidentifywhatresultsyoushould
beaccomplishingbutarenotabletoatthistime,listallofthethingsthatcouldbeimprovedabout...
ortothinkofallthethingsthatcouldbecausing....Onlyonekeyquestionshould,however,beusedin
asessioninordertomaintainaclearfocusandobjective.
6. Givethegroupmembersanopportunitytoaskanyquestionsthatcometomindortodiscussanything
thathelpstoelucidatethescopeandspecificsofthetopic.Inotherwords,accommodateinteractionthat
willhelpincreaseclarityforthediscussion.
7. Askthegroupmemberstotakesometime(generallyafewminutes)tothinkaboutthetopicandto
writedownsomenotesfortheirresponses.Encouragegroupmemberstowritedowntheirthoughtsina
bulleted,abbreviatedformat.
8. Onaturnbyturnbasis,askeachgroupmembertotakesometimetoshareoneoftheirresponseswith
thegroup.Aseachgroupmembershareshis/herresponse,writeitdownonaflipchart.Invitethe
groupmembertoelaborateifappropriate.
9. Onceallgroupmembershavegivenoneresponse,goaroundtheroomagainandaskeachgroup
membertogivenasecond,andthenathirdresponse.Continuethisprocessuntilallanswershavebeen
writtenontheflipchartsheets.Askparticipantstoscratchitemsfromtheirindividuallistsastheyare
addedtotheflipcharts(toavoidduplication).
10. Hanguptheflipchartsheetsnexttoeachother,sothatallofthemcanbeseenatthesametime,andby
allgroupmembers.Assignalettertoeachdiscretecontributionontheflipchartsheets.Eachitemonthe
flipchartsshouldhaveauniqueletter,tofacilitatediscussion.

WBI EVALUATION GROUP (2007)

NEEDS ASSESSMENT KNOWLEDGE BASE

11. Giveeachgroupmemberastackofindexcards.Askeachgroupmembertoidentify,forexample,the
fiveresponsesthattheyfeelaremostimportant,identifyingeachresponseonaseparateindexcardby
theletterithasbeenassignedontheflipchart.
12. Next,askthegroupmemberstorankorderthefiveresponsestheyselectedinorderofpriority,from
onetofive(fivebeingthehighestpriority,andonebeingtheleasthighpriority).Theyshoulddothisby
writingtherankordervalueofeachresponsenexttotheletterfortheresponseontheirindexcard.
Whendone,askthegroupmemberstoreorganizetheirindexcardsinalphabeticalorder.
13. Readingfromtheflipchart,readthroughthelistofresponsesinalphabeticalorder.Asyoureadoutthe
lettercorrespondingwitharesponse,askeachgroupmembertostatetherank(ifany)thattheygaveit.
14. Aggregatealltheranksforeachresponseontheflipchart.Thoseresponseswiththehighestaggregated
valueconstitutethetopprioritiesforthegroup.
15. Ifnecessary,asecondroundofrankingscanbedonetofurtherreducetheresponsestoagroup
decision..

TIPSFORSUCCESS

Eachnominalgroupsessionthatyouconductshouldlastbetween30minutesandfourhours.Each
sessionshoulddealwithonlyonekeyquestionpresentedtotheparticipants.

Arrangetohavethefollowingsuppliesavailableatthegroupmeetingsite:Flipchart,maskingtape,
markers,paper,indexcards,pens/pencils

Ifyouareworkingwithalargergroup,youcanassignindividualparticipantstosmallergroups,
assigningeachgroupaleader.

REFERENCESANDRESOURCES
Witkin, B.R., & Altschuld, J.W. (1995). Planning and Conducting Needs Assessments: A Practical Guide.
Sage Publications, Inc.

WEBSITES
UsingNominalGroups:
http://ppa.aces.uiuc.edu/pdf_files/NomGroup1.PDF

TheNominalGroupTechnique
http://syque.com/quality_tools/toolbook/NGT/ngt.htm
(ThiswebsitefromQualityToolsincludesaworkedexampleofthetechniquebeingimplemented).

ExpressedSatisfactionwiththeNominalGroupTechniqueamongChangeAgents:
http://cogprints.org/4767/01/Gresham.pdf
(Thisisadissertationdocument;howevertheliteraturereviewprovidesinterestingandindepthinformationonthe
useofthenominalgrouptechnique).

WBI EVALUATION GROUP (2007)