Getting Ideas: Nominal Group Technique (NGT)


and Affinity Clustering


Quick Tips for Team Leaders


By Jeff Oltmann

Oregon, USA

Nominal Group Technique (NGT)

Nominal group technique (NGT) is a structured method for group brainstorming that encourages contributions from everyone.  See the Brainstorming article for tips and other variations.

When to Use Nominal Group Technique

  • When some group members are much more vocal than others.
  • When some group members think better in silence.
  • When there is concern about some members not participating.
  • When the group does not easily generate quantities of ideas.
  • When all or some group members are new to the team.
  • When the issue is controversial or there is heated conflict.

Nominal Group Technique Procedure

Materials needed: paper and pen or pencil for each individual, flipchart, marking pens, tape.

  1. State the subject of the brainstorming. Clarify the statement as needed until everyone understands it.
  2. Each team member silently thinks of and writes down as many ideas as possible in a set period of time (5 to 10 minutes).
  3. Each member in turn states aloud one idea. Facilitator records it on the flipchart.
    • No discussion is allowed, not even questions for clarification.
    • Ideas given do not need to be from the team member’s written list. Indeed, as time goes on, many ideas will not be.
    • A member may “pass” his or her turn, and may then add an idea on a subsequent turn.

Continue around the group until all members pass or for an agreed-upon length of time.

  1. Discuss each idea in turn. Wording may be changed only when the idea’s originator agrees. Ideas may be stricken from the list only by unanimous agreement. Discussion may clarify meaning, explain logic or analysis, raise and answer questions, or state agreement or disagreement.
  2. Prioritize the ideas using multivoting or list reduction.


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Editor’s note: This series of “Quick Tips” articles is by Jeff Oltmann, experienced program and technology executive and principal of Synergy Professional Services, LLC in Oregon, USA. The Quick Tips offer simple approaches and models for problem analysis, gathering ideas and input from team members, facilitation and taking action. The tips offered in this series were identified or developed over two decades of helping program, project and team leaders get things done in faster, more agile ways. Learn more about Jeff Oltmann in his author profile at the end of this article.

How to cite this paper: Oltmann, J. (2023). Title this month, Quick Tips for Team Leaders, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/pmwj126-Feb2023-Oltman-nominal-group-technique-and-affinity-clustering-2.pdf

About the Author

Jeff Oltmann

Oregon, USA


Jeff Oltmann is a seasoned leader with over 30 years of experience advising clients, managing successful technology programs, and developing new products. His specialties include strategy deployment, operational and project excellence, and project portfolio management. As principal consultant at Synergy Professional Services, Jeff advises leaders and teams in diverse sectors including healthcare, research, bioscience, and technology product development.

Jeff is the founder of the Portfolio and Project Leaders Forum.  He is also on the graduate faculty of the Division of Management at Oregon Health and Science University and was previously on executive staff at IBM.    He teaches portfolio, program, and project management and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®).

Jeff welcomes your questions and ideas.  You can contact him at jeff@spspro.com or read previous articles at www.spspro.com/article-library.