Decision Making Processes


  • To understand different forms of decision making
  • To agree on what form to use in this group or project


  • Flip chart paper/butcher paper
  • Markers
  • Tape
  • “Forms of Decision Making” handout (1 per participant)
  • “Forms of Decision Making – Example” handout (1 per participant)

Prepare Before

Post three sheets of flip chart paper or butcher paper around the room.

Warm Up

(This warm up also appears in our “Non-verbal Communication” lesson plan in Get Started > Team-Building.)

Assemble participants into a circle (facing in). Ask for a volunteer to be the guesser. This person will then step out of the room and out of earshot. Once that person is outside, pick someone in the group to be the leader. Her or his role is to lead the group without the guesser figuring out that he or she is the leader. Have the leader start a motion that everyone else must follow (e.g., clapping hands, waving, rubbing belly). Once everyone is doing the motion, ask the guesser to come back in and stand in the middle of the circle by the guesser, and try to guess who is initiating the motions. The leader must change motions when they think that they are unobserved. The rest of the group tries to follow as quickly as possible to make it harder to guess who is leading. Once the person in the middle guesses correctly, repeat the process with a new guesser and leader.

Debrief: What does this say about leadership? Is it always easy to tell who is leading? Ask participants to think of examples of leaders who led by supporting others and keeping a group focused. Are there other different kinds of leaders?


Divide the group into three smaller groups and arrange each by a butcher paper. Have each group appoint a note taker and a reporter. Ask participants to recall different times in their lives when they have had to make decisions and the processes they used to make these decisions. Offer scenarios such as:

  • Think back to a time recently when you needed to make a decision with your friends (like what to do after school, what movie to see, or where to sit at lunch). How was it decided what you would do?
  • Now think about a time in one of your classes when there was a decision about what activity you would do. How was it decided what you would do?
  • When the city needs to decide whether or not to build a new park, how is it decided what will happen?
  • Who decides in your familiy what you eat for dinner or whether or not you go to church?


In the full group, explain the general categories of decisions:

  • Autocratic: Made by one person
  • Representative: Made by one person with input from others
  • Democratic: Made by group together, majority rules
  • Consensus: Made by group together, all must come to agreement

Discuss the pros and cons of each category, using the Forms of Decision Making worksheet. Fill in participants’ answers and ideas.


Back in their small groups, ask the participants to again discuss the examples they came up with and decide which category best fits with each of their examples. Then ask them to identify the most common forms of decision making they experience and to identify some ways they would change the decision-making structures in their lives.

Have a representative share out from each of the groups.


Bring the entire group back together and explain the importance of having a procedure for making decisions together. Ask the entire group which model they think would be best for this group or program and why. Let the group know that others who have used this curriculum have found that democratic processes work best to ensure a fair process where everyone’s voice is heard and decisions are made in a timely way. Also, let the group know that there may be some cases when the adults will need to make decisions. For example, the adult facilitator may decide to plan an activity or retreat that addresses a particular issue or conflict that they notice in the group. Review the procedure that has merited the most support. Be certain to ask if there are any objections, questions, or revisions given their earlier discussions.