Modified Delphi Method for Small Group Work

May, 2016

When organizations engage in planning and strategy work, they need to hear and evaluate a wide spectrum of stakeholder views before distilling available information into a compact list or statement that represents the best available consensus. In 2016, when my library was undertaking a strategic planning effort, I was asked to lead the deliberations of a small group of employees. (If my memory is correct, I was one of five group members.) We were charged with contributing our collective view of the library's core values, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

In order to facilitate the process, I devised a method for collecting a list of opinions and then gradually reducing its length and variability. The method, shown below, encouraged open communication and consensus-building by alternating between (a) private/anonymous voting and (b) eliciting self-expression on a systematic, rotational basis.

Implementing this method allowed our group to work through some controversial topics and emerge with a product that we could support as a fair representation of our collective thought.

The method's steps are detailed below:

  1. Panelists privately/anonymously submit to moderator a list of specified number/range of items in a given category (e.g., core values, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
  2. The moderator compiles submissions into a composite list and asks panelists to rank them as to their correspondence to reality.
  3. The moderator compiles and distributes a list of ranked items that shows group consensus and disagreement.
  4. The moderator facilitates discussion of the entire list of items, taking care to ensure that all panelists’ views are heard. The moderator solicits input on each item, rotating among panelists in the offer of a first word on the subject, but also opening discussion to the broader group. The moderator collects item-specific annotations such as the following:
    • The item conflicts with one or more other items on list.
    • The item encompasses one or more other items on list.
    • The item is comprehended in another item on the list.
  5. The moderator distributes a ranked-item list with corresponding annotations. Panelists submit a revised ranked-order list of items.
  6. The compiles and distributes the results to the group.

Want to learn more about group work and related topics?

Click the buttons below to see relevant entries in my bibliography, SmithFile.