Resources - Quality Systems

Delphi Technique

Description The Delphi technique is an iterative process that results in a consensus by a group of experts. The subject is presented to the experts. Without discussing the subject among themselves, the experts send their comments to a facilitator. The facilitator reviews the comments and eliminates those not applicable to the subject. Then, the comments are redistributed to the experts for further review. This iteration is repeated until a consensus is reached.

Application This technique is a useful tool for finding a solution when personality differences exist between members of involved technical areas. A group of experts can examine the problem and, through consensus, the effects of the differences can be minimized. Another application for this technique is to allow all parties to have equal input when one personality may otherwise overpower another in a discussion.

Procedures The Delphi technique is applied in the following manner:

  1. Define the subject upon which the experts are to comment.
  2. Assemble a monitor group to determine task objectives, develop questionnaires, etc.
  3. Choose the experts, making sure they have no vested interest in the outcome.
  4. Distribute the objectives, questionnaires, etc. to the experts for their initial set of opinions.
  5. The monitor team consolidates the opinions and redistributes the comments to the experts, making sure that the comments remain anonymous.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until a group consensus is reached.

Advantages

  1. This technique can be useful in eliminating personality clashes.
  2. This technique can be useful when powerful personalities are likely to dominate the discussion.
  3. Inputs from experts unavailable for a single meeting are included.

Limitations

  1. Arriving at a group consensus is time-consuming.
  2. Assembling the group participants is difficult/time-consuming.

Source: System Engineering "Toolbox" for Design-Oriented Engineers, Sec 7. - NASA/RP-1358

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