First Decision

Here’s an opening activity that I use in my training workshop on effective decision making. I conduct this activity, not as an opener, but as a part of initial logistic discussions during the workshop. Later, I stress the fact that we make a lot of decisions every day without paying attention to what we are doing.


To explore different aspects of decision making.


  • Minimum: 2
  • Maximum: Any number
  • Best: 10 to 30




Select a decision. I usually ask, “When should we have our lunch break?” You may borrow this question. However, if your training session is of a shorter duration, come up with an alternative question that involves a decision. Here are some examples:

  • How much time should we set aside for the question-and-answer session?
  • What should be an important ground rule for the participants?
  • What is my primary responsibility as the facilitator?
  • What expectation do most of you have?


Select a participant. Welcome all participants. Randomly select one of the participants and ask the question that involves a decision. Pause until the selected participant gives a response.

Make it official. Repeat the response and explain that you are going to implement it as the standard procedure. Ignore any complaints.

Debrief the participants. Point out to the participants they could learn a lot of useful principles by reflecting on what happened during the session and sharing their insights.

Explain the procedure. Tell the participants that you will ask several open-ended questions. None of these questions have a correct answer. Encourage each participant to think of one or more answers. After a suitable pause, ask them to share their response to a neighbor. Later, ask the participants to announce a response they came up with or heard from someone else.

Ask these questions. You may make up your own question or use the ones from this list:

  1. Did the decision-maker ask other people for their input? Should she have asked others?
  2. Did the decision-maker feel uncomfortable in making the decision? Why do you think she felt that way?
  3. Did the decision-maker make an impulsive decision or a deliberate (well-thought-out) decision?
  4. Did the decision-maker take her personal preferences into account in making this decision?
  5. Did the decision-maker take too much time or too little time to make the decision?
  6. Do you have a different decision? What makes it a better one?
  7. Do you think this was a fair decision?
  8. Have you ever had to make a similar decision?
  9. How do you evaluate the quality of this decision? What factors do we take into consideration in evaluating this decision?
  10. What additional information were needed for making this decision?
  11. What alternative decisions could have been made?
  12. What are some key facts related to the decision?
  13. What assumptions were behind this decision?
  14. What did you learn from this activity about decision making?
  15. What pieces of background information influenced the decision-maker?
  16. What was the purpose of this decision?
  17. What was the role of the decision-maker?
  18. Who will be affected by this decision?
  19. Why do you think the facilitator delegated the decision-making task to one of you?
  20. If you do not like this decision, what do you plan to do?