(this exercise was co-created as part of a collaboration day between myself and Geoff Watts)

Timings: 8 mins exercise, 5 min debrief

Materials: 8 Musical Hand Bells per team, 4-12 people in each team. If the bells have sticky numbers on them, it’s best to remove those (or any other reference to bell order) before the exercise begins.


Each team is given a simple brief to start the exercise. The team must recreate and play a simple 10-20 second “tune” using the bells which must adhere to the following criteria:

  • All bells must be rung at least once
  • All team members must play a bell at least once
  • The tune must be recognisable to the course tutor
  • The tune must be “easy on the ear”
The tutor steps out of the room for the 8 minutes, and the team create the music. (Even though the sheet music
Learning Points:
Most adults tend to find this game a challenge, because there is no sheet music to follow and no one person in charge. The key to success is:
  • a clear and understood vision (choosing a song/nursery rhyme that the whole team knows and the tutor will recognise)
  • continuous and early testing – repeating the tune over and over to help find the right and wrong notes early and often.
  • collaboration – people have to be prepared to adjust their plans and performance based on other team members contributions
The most common failure patterns:
  • people are too afraid to ring a bell themselves – fear of failure, lack of mutual respect in newly formed teams, everyone “thinks” they are tone deaf when in actual fact the tune can still be recognisable even from an imperfect performance.
  • lack of progess through failing to decide on a simple vision
  • team members not calling out a lack of quality from other team members
  • not everyone plays a bell – lack of buy in to team goal
As well as demonstrating how collaborative team working can be key to success in delivery, we have also used this exercise to stress between BEING agile and DOING agile.
BEING agile is accepting the uncertainty of the problem and the expected output, trial and error and having lots of fun getting to the solution through continuous feedback.
DOING agile would have occurred if you gave the team the sheet music (which is usually in the box with the bells). This leads to predictive thinking, stifles innovation and is generally more boring!!