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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

Nominal Group Technique: Examples

The Quality Toolbook > Nominal Group Technique > Examples

When to use it | How to understand it | Example | How to use it | Practical variations


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A five-man shift quality group at a coal mine was trying to improve a slow transport system for moving coal from the face to the main belt. As two of the team were known to be particularly vociferous, with another two being quiet but known thinkers, the foreman asked the site quality manager to facilitate a session that would help to identify a way to improve the system, but which would allow all shift members to contribute equally.

The quality manager started by meeting with the group to gain a common understanding of what they were trying to achieve. They agreed on a problem statement of, 'How can we find a simple way of having a low-vibration face transport system?' He then gave them seven cards each and asked them to put their seven best thoughts towards a solution, one on each card, and bring them to the next meeting.

At the following meeting, the quality manager had written the problem statement from the previous meeting on a blackboard. He started the session by checking that everyone agreed with the problem statement and had completed the seven cards. He then described the technique that they were going to use and answered a couple of questions. The group then agreed to go with the final vote that they made.

He collected the cards, shuffled them, then read them out one at a time, checking that everyone understood what the statement on each card meant. Where necessary, he helped with rewording and wrote it on a flipchart, putting a capital letter against each one.

The team were given the opportunity to add to this list by writing new ideas on more cards. Four of the people contributed ten more ideas between them.

They then voted with six votes each, ranging from six points down to one point, writing the name of the best ideas on 'ballot slips' which had the point values preprinted on them. These were handed to the quality manager, who added them up and put the final scores against the appropriate ideas.

Five ideas had high scores, but with no single idea scoring significantly more than the others in this group. To help separate out this group, they held a second ballot. This time, two complementary ideas were clearly at the top. They agreed to implement these the same week.

No-one ever said whose ideas were used, but no-one minded either, as the whole team got the credit.


Other examples

  • A group of accountants working on improving a management report has a strongly structured work style, and consequently use NGT rather than Brainstorming to come up with the right format.
  • A sales manager, wanting to put together a presentation for a key customer, brings together the account manager, the product marketing manager and the two key product engineers. The quality manager facilitates a session for them, where they quickly find the key product benefits over the competing products, and come up with a compelling value proposition.
  • A product line team cannot agree on the best sound-proofing for a plate press, and the production manager will not pay until they agree. They get the line facilitator to run an NGT session to help uncover the real problems. This reveals that a couple of people have preferred brands and no trials have been done. After a visit to a local trade show and internal trials, they agree on a compromise system.



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