1 February 2022

Using QI tools to fairly gather and select change ideas for testing

By Cath Heaney, Improvement Advisor 

In 5 minutes, learn more about nominal group technique, affinity diagrams and multi-voting with accompanying videos of a team using these tools. These three QI tools are quick, interactive activities that can help teams generate ideas quickly and fairly, group common ideas together and then prioritise which ones to test

out. These tools can be used at any stage in improvement work, but you might see them most commonly when teams are ready to develop change ideas and identify which ones to test using PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) cycles 

You can find out how to do them in the step-by-step below and accompanying videos. The videos were filmed as part of day one of the Improvement Leaders Programme. As part of the day delegates had the opportunity to use some of the tools to help develop change ideas around improving environmental sustainability and reach a consensus around which to take forward. 

You can see a more detailed description of each QI tool used for the activity below in this table (figure one): 


Topic   QI Tool 
Generating ideas (step 1 & 2)  Nominal Group Technique  
Group common ideas together and stack duplicates​ (step 3)  Affinity Diagram​ 
Narrow list to top 5-10 ideas​ (step 4, 5 & 6)  Multi-voting  

Figure one: table explaining the different QI tools used in this activity to generate chance ideas 


Step One: Generating Ideas (part of nominal group technique) 

Gather your team together and use sticky-notes and pens. Agree on the problem being tackled then spend a short amount of time (5-10 minutes) where individuals write down potential solutions in silence. Doing this quietly helps focus thoughts and prevents individuals from influencing others in the group. Individuals can write down as many ideas as they would like but should write one idea per sticky-note.  


Step Two: Finding Duplicate Ideas and Stacking (part of nominal group technique) 

Put all the ideas down on the table and spend some time reading all of these. Stack any duplicate ideas on top of each other. 


Step Three: Theming (part of affinity diagrams) 

Spend some time reading the ideas then discuss what the common themes might be for each group of ideas. This step is often done in silence to help people prevent people being influenced by others.  After this, take another post-it note and give each grouping a name.  


Step Four: Calculating Votes (a part of multi-voting) 

Before voting on which ideas to move forward with, your team need to calculate how many votes each member will have. An easy way to do this is to give each individual 10 votes. 


Step Five: Multi-voting 

Next vote on the idea(s) you believe will have the greatest impact on solving the problem. Each team member can choose how they spread their votes. For example, they can place 3 votes on one idea and spread the remaining 7 across separate ideas. 


Step Six: Prioritising (a part of multi-voting) 

By counting the ideas which have the greatest number of votes you can identify the top three ideas which your team can move forward with. 


An alternative approach to prioritising is using rank ordering and structured discussion 

Virtual meeting tip 

If you are interested, you can also use Google Jamboard or the whiteboard function on Microsoft Teams to run this in a virtual meeting. You can find steps on how to do this using the l

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