Quality Ice Breaker

Hello! I am looking for ideas on a group ice breaker that will get people thinking about quality that might not typically think about quality. 15 minutes. Could include some set up. Thank you.

5 Replies
Trish Borzon
1374 Posts

Hi @Natasha Stewart - I'm tagging @Robert Mitchell, whom I believe might have some to share.

Great question Natasha. Ask people how their work activities directly affect the customer. In my life sciences company, we think of it as, how do each of us make patients' lives better?


During our Phoenix Section monthly member development ("Program") meetings - which have been virtual since April 2020 via Zoom) - we begin every meeting with a 20-networking minute session. We have experimented with all types of formats, both structured and unstructured. Our experience is that an interactive ice breaker works best, such as polls or breakout rooms using whiteboards. Back in the days pre-COVID, when we had in-person Programs, we began every meeting with a networking session. Our December Program was usually an opportunity to conduct member input to Section operations and planning; we would conduct a Cafe style round-robin where members rotate between 6-8 tables, each table soliciting member feedback on a variety of topics as input to our Strategic Planning prioritization process.

The Phoenix Section SLC meets on the 1st Tuesday evening of each month; our monthly Programs are held on the 2nd Thursday evening of each month. At our SLC ("Board") meetings we discuss possible Breakout topics for the upcoming Program. One BO room is always a “Meet the Speaker”. The other 1-2 BOs are typically on topics relevant to current news and events, and societal issues- and the role of Quality. (Those attendees choosing not to participate in a breakout remain in the “Main” room where I, as Section Chair, lead an open mic session… no agenda).

  • For example, we had a couple of breakouts focused on “What's working (or not working)” in your business that promotes employee engagement during the COVID isolation and work from home environment.
  • How can Quality improve elections integrity? Should ASQ be involved with the development of election standards and/or publish election process best practices?
  • What are some best practices in your place of employment to encourage and support diversity and inclusion?
  • What ASQ Phoenix Section products/services or processes are “broken”? Suggested Opportunities for improvement?
  • Quality Jeopardy quiz game (competition between tables) is a fan favorite
  • “Hacks” (Tips and Techniques) related to common quality improvement tools. Example: Minitab, Excel, etc.

Remember, these are limited to 15-20 minute sessions, followed by a report-out prior to introducing our guest speaker.


Duke Okes
234 Posts

Here are 3 sequential/related discussion questions:

1. What are some major quality failures we've seen occur in recent years (examples might be Boeing 737 MAX 8, Takata air bags, Wells Fargo customer accounts, …)?

2. What are some quality successes (products or services) you've personally experienced recently?

3. What do you think some of the differences might be between the organizations that produced the failures versus the successes?

I do like a good energizer. A favorite is “Questions Only”, which fits nicely with thinking about quality.


Step 1:

Explain the game to your group. The aim of Questions Only is for pairs to improvise a conversation where every sentence is a question.

For example, if I asked you "How are you doing this morning?" you would have to answer with another question, such as, "What are you doing up so early?"

The basic rules for the game are:

  1. every question needs to be answered with another question
  2. if you answer a question with something other than a question, you're out of the game!
  3. you can't simply repeat the question that was asked to you. For example, "How are you doing today?" shouldn't be answered with "How are YOU doing today?"

For advanced groups, I add the rule that too much hesitation in responding to a question means you're out too.

Step 2:

Ask participants to pair up. Each participant takes it in turns to start a conversation with a question. Repeat a few times so that each person has a turn at starting the conversation.

Want to spice things up? Between rounds, give participants a topic and each person should try to ask questions related to that topic. This is a great spot to bring in quality-specific questions, like some of the great ones listed here.

Step 3.

Ask pairs to converge into small groups. Next, play the game again as a set of four, going clockwise around the group. But add the rule that you have to start with a different question word than the last person.

For example, if I asked you, "What did you have for dinner?" you would have to respond with a Why, How, When, Where, or Who question. You couldn't respond with a What question, or you'd be out!

Play for another few rounds so that each person in the group gets a turn at starting the conversation.

Tips for running this activity online

  • When running this online, we tend to stick to steps 1 and 2 and move to a tournament set-up to keep things moving. Have the facilitator pair people up to play the first round before then picking another pair to play the next round. Make a note of all the winners from the first round and pair those up. Continue until you have a winner!
  • Often, the game proceeds for only a few back and forths before you find a winner - if you find that two people are REALLY good at the game, introduce the challenge to respond with a different question type.
  • Preferably have a gallery view turned on for all participants, so everyone can see everyone during this exercise.