The Delphi Method

Achieving Well Thought-Through Consensus Among Experts

The Delphi Method

© iStockphoto/fstop123

It's a common observation to say that when you get three experts together, you'll often end up with four different opinions.

This is particularly the case in areas such as resource allocation and forecasting where the conclusion reached depends on a number of subjective assessments.

In cases like these, arguments can quickly become passionate, and disagreement can often become intensely personal and bitter.

More than this, in face-to-face discussion, situations of groupthink   can occur. Here (for example) the eccentric views of early or charismatic speakers can achieve undue prominence as the group seeks to find consensus. This can lead to poor decision making.

This is where an approach like the Delphi Method, also known as the Delphi Technique, is needed to reach a properly thought-through consensus among experts.

How to Use the Tool

The Delphi Method works through a number of cycles of anonymous written discussion and argument, managed by a facilitator. Participants in the process do not meet, or even necessarily know who else is involved: the facilitator controls the process, and manages the flow and consolidation of information.

The anonymity and remoteness of the process helps to avoid issues of groupthink and personality conflict. More than this, it gives people time to think issues through properly, critique arguments rigorously and contribute fully.

The editing of responses by a facilitator means that inflammatory interventions can be toned down and input can be consolidated efficiently. And the iterative approach means that arguments can be refined and tested until they are robust and fully-considered.

To use the technique, use the following steps:

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