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Delphi Technique

What is it?

The Delphi Technique begins with the development of a set of open-ended questions
on a specific issue. These questions are then distributed to various experts. The
responses to these questions are summarised and a second set of questions that seek
to clarify areas of agreement and disagreement is formulated and distributed to the
same group of experts.

The Delphi technique has been described as a method for structuring a


group communication process so that the process is effective in allowing a
group of individuals, as a whole, to deal with a complex problem (Linstone &
Turoff )
Characteristics of the Delphi
The Delphi process today exists in two distinct forms. The most common is the
paper-and-pencil version which is commonly referred to as a "Delphi Exercise." In
this situation a small monitor team designs a questionnaire which is sent to a larger
respondent group, After the questionnaire is returned the monitor team summarizes
the results and, based upon the results, develops a new questionnaire for the
respondent group. The respondent group is usually given at least one opportunity to
re-evaluate its original answers based upon examination of the group response. To a
degree, this form of Delphi is a combination of a polling procedure and a conference
procedure which attempts to shift a significant portion of the effort needed for
individuals to communicate from the larger respondent group to the smaller monitor
teat). We shall denote this form conventional Delphi.
A newer form, sometimes called a "Delphi Conference," replaces the monitor
teat) to a large degree by a computer which has been programmed to carry out the
compilation of the group results. This latter approach has the advantage of
eliminating the delay caused in summarizing each round of Delphi, thereby turning
the process
into a real-time communications system. However, it does require that the
characteristics of the communication be well defined before Delphi is undertaken,
whereas in a paper-and-pencil Delphi exercise the monitor team can adjust these
characteristics as a function of the group responses. This latter form shall be labelled
real-lucre Delphi.
Usually Delphi, whether it be conventional or real-tune, undergoes four distinct
phases. The first phase is characterized by exploration of the subject under
discussion, wherein each individual contributes additional information he feels is
pertinent to the
issue. The second phase involves the process of reaching an understanding of how the
group views the issue (i.e., where the members agree or disagree and what they mean
by relative terms such as importance, desirability, or feasibility). if there is significant
disagreement, then that disagreement is explored in the third phase to bring out the
underlying reasons for the differences and possibly to evaluate them. The last phase,
a final evaluation, occurs when all previously gathered information has been initially
analyzed and the evaluations have been fed back for consideration.
Where does it come from?
It has its origins in the Cold War in the 1950s when the Rand Corporation,
funded by the US Air Force, was trying to find a way to establish reliable
consensus of opinion among a group of experts about how Soviet military
planners might target the US industrial system in an attack and how many
atomic bombs would be needed to have a specified level of impact on US
military capability. This was the original Project Delphi.
What is it used for?
Fifty years later, it is widely used for more peaceful purposes, but with the
same underlying rationale: to establish as objectively as possible a
consensus on a complex problem, in circumstances where accurate
information does not exist or is impossible to obtain economically, or inputs to
conventional decision making for example by a committee meeting face to
face are so subjective that they risk drowning out individuals critical
judgements.
It is a family of techniques, rather than a single clearly understood
procedure, but the typical features of a Delphi procedure are an expert panel a series
of rounds in which information is collected from panellists, analysed and fed
back to them as the basis for subsequent rounds an opportunity for
individuals to revise their judgments on the basis of this feedback and some
degree of anonymity for their individual contributions.

Advantages of Delphi Technique.


Delphi Technique:
Is conducted in writing and does not require face-to-face meetings:
- responses can be made at the convenience of the participant
- individuals from diverse backgrounds or from remote locations to work
together on the same problems
- is relatively free of social pressure, personality influence, and individual
dominance and is, therefore, conducive to independent thinking and gradual
formulation of reliable judgments or forecasting of results
- helps generate consensus or identify divergence of opinions among groups
hostile to each other
Helps keep attention directly on the issue:
Allows a number of experts to be called upon to provide a broad range of views,
on which to base
analysistwo heads are better than one:
- allows sharing of information and reasoning among participants
- iteration enables participants to review, re-evaluate and revise all their
previous statements in light of comments made by their peers
Is inexpensive.

Disadvantages of Delphi Technique:


Information comes from a selected group of people and may not be
representative
Tendency to eliminate extreme positions and force a middle-of-the-road
consensus
More time-consuming than group process methods
Requires skill in written communication
Requires adequate time and participant commitment.

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