Delphi Method

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Alternative names: 
Delphi Effect
Level of process: 
Intent or purpose: 
Decision making structured in different rounds
Used as component of: 
The Delphi Method can be used as a part of Action Planning, Conflict Resolution, Problem Solving, Product Development, Project Planning, Strategic Planning, and System Design. The Method can be used in conflicts, with groups deciding too quickly, in situations where there disagreements and where there is little group participation.
Recognizable Components: 
Types of Participants: 
Recommended size of group: 
Usual or Expected Outcomes: 
A consensus, based on the intentions and ideas of the group as a whole
Level of participation: 
Ideal Conditions: 
Open-minded, yet determined and assertive participants
Potential Pitfalls: 
Lack of motivation, stubbornness
How is success evaluated: 
By the quality of the decision
Examples of successes and failures: 
In 1944, General Arnold ordered the creation of the report for the U.S. Air Force on the future technological capabilities that might be used by the military (Wikipedia). Delphi was developed and used.
Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: 
Facilitator holds knowledge over the topic, controls the input of the group.
Facilitator Personality Fit: 
Good knowledge of topic
Setting and Materials: 
Resources Needed: 
Pre-Work Required: 
Research, Acquire statistical data and information

1. The facilitator prepares a questionnaire or a survey about the issue and sends it out to a panel of experts. Experts may be selected because of their knowledge, opinion or view about the issue.

2. If the panel of experts accept, they follow instructions and present their views.

3. Responses are collected and analyzed, then common and conflicting viewpoints are identified. The median or mode of the results of the questionnaire or survey are part of the report.

4. These are then sent back to the panel for further comment. Participants comment on their own forecasts, the responses of others and on the progress of the panel as a whole. At any moment they can revise their earlier statements.

5. If consensus is not reached, the process continues through thesis and antithesis, to gradually work towards synthesis, and building consensus.

6. Finally, the process is stopped after a pre-defined stop criterion (e.g. number of rounds, achievement of consensus, stability of results) and the mean or median scores of the final rounds determine the results.

1. Usually all participants maintain anonymity. Their identity is not revealed even after the completion of the final report. This stops them from dominating others in the process using their authority or personality, frees them to some extent from their personal biases, minimizes the "bandwagon effect" or "halo effect", allows them to freely express their opinions, encourages open critique and admitting errors by revising earlier judgments.
2. This is a good way of preparing a group for a face to face meeting. Two or more rounds are done before the meeting. The meeting then starts with the results of these rounds.

How flexible is the process?: 
Very flexible.
Follow-Up Required: 
Rand Corporation by Olaf Helmer, Norman Dalkey, and Nicholas Rescher.
Derived from: 
Epistemological Framework: 
Delphi [pron: delfI] is based on the principle that forecasts from a structured group of experts are more accurate than those from unstructured groups or individuals. The technique can be adapted for use in face-to-face meetings, and is then called mini-Delphi or Estimate-Talk-Estimate (ETE). Delphi has been widely used for business forecasting and has certain advantages over another structured forecasting approach, prediction markets.
History of Development: 

The name "Delphi" derives from the Oracle of Delphi. The authors of the method were not happy with this name, because it implies "something oracular, something smacking a little of the occult". The Delphi method is based on the assumption that group judgments are more valid than individual judgments.

The Delphi method was developed at the beginning of the Cold War to forecast the impact of technology on warfare. In 1944, General Henry H. Arnold ordered the creation of the report for the U.S. Army Air Corps on the future technological capabilities that might be used by the military.

Different approaches were tried, but the shortcomings of traditional forecasting methods, such as theoretical approach, quantitative models or trend extrapolation, in areas where precise scientific laws have not been established yet, quickly became apparent. To combat these shortcomings, the Delphi method was developed by Project RAND during the 1950-1960s (1959) by Olaf Helmer, Norman Dalkey, and Nicholas Rescher. It has been used ever since, together with various modifications and reformulations, such as the Imen-Delphi procedure.

Experts were asked to give their opinion on the probability, frequency and intensity of possible enemy attacks. Other experts could anonymously give feedback. This process was repeated several times until a consensus emerged.