Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Delphi Method

One of the methods that was mentioned in the email that was sent was the Delphi Method. What is this Delphi Method?

From the readings this method is primarily used for forecasting and decision making. Like a lot of other research and technological innovations it began in the military. In 1946 a Project called RAND (short for Research and Development)

Definition: The Delphi Method is based on a structured process for collecting and distilling knowledge from a group of experts by means of a series of questionnaires interspersed with controlled opinion feedback.

Premise: Human judgment (Expert Knowledge) is acceptable in fields that have no yet developed scientific laws to make decisions.

A little Extra Information

The word Delphi is associated with Greek Mythology. Delphi was an Oracle, where the intermediaries would give forecast and advice to the gods. However, Helmer and Dalkey the founders of the method, would rather than the method not be associated with the Greek Oracle. But I guess that’s life names stick J


- Experts make decisions

- Anonymity allows free formation of opinions that the social interaction of usual group discussion may inhibited

- Experts who geographically dispersed can deal systematically in complex task and problem solving.

- useful in answering one, specific, single-dimension question

How is it done?

In a Nutshell: a series of questionnaires are sent either by mail or via computerized systems, to a pre-selected group of experts. These questionnaires are designed to elicit and develop individual responses to the problems posed and to enable the experts to refine their views as the group’s work progresses in accordance with the assigned task. The group interaction is anonymous.

  1. Formation of a team to undertake and monitor a Delphi on a given subject.
  2. Selection of one or more panels to participate in the exercise. Customarily, the panelists are experts in the area to be investigated.
  3. Development of the first round Delphi questionnaire
  4. Testing the questionnaire for proper wording (e.g., ambiguities, vagueness)
  5. Transmission of the first questionnaires to the panelists
  6. Analysis of the first round responses
  7. Preparation of the second round questionnaires (and possible testing)
  8. Transmission of the second round questionnaires to the panelists
  9. Analysis of the second round responses (Steps 7 to 9 are reiterated as long as desired or necessary to achieve stability in the results.)
  10. Preparation of a report by the analysis team to present the conclusions of the exercise

Questions to ask before considering using the Delphi Method.

  • What kind of group communication process is desirable in order to explore the problem at hand?
  • Who are the people with expertise on the problem and where are they located?
  • What are the alternative techniques available and what results can reasonably be expected from their application?


- Unscientific

- Illusory expertise: some of the experts may be poor forecasters. The expert tends to be a specialist and thus views the forecast in a setting which is not the most appropriate one.

- The simplification urge: Experts tend to judge the future of events in isolation from other developments. A holistic view of future events where change has had a pervasive influence cannot be visualized easily. At this point cross-impact analysis is of some help.

- Format bias: it should be recognized that the format of the questionnaire may be unsuitable to some potential societal participants.

My Opinion: I am reading a book called Renaissance E-learning for another course and it has a section of quotes that were made against the realization of certain inventions that exist today. Most of the quotes were made by experts in the field. Example, “I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall. 1957

This goes to show that sometimes experts are not necessarily good forecasters. However, I like the fact that it’s anonymous and it brings together the opinions’ of experts from several geographical locations. It has merits but, as with most Data collection methods should not be used alone and should be used with caution.

I think even though it's used primarily for forecasting it can also be used to develop solutions to complex organizational problems.