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During a recent sprint, some issues regarding one of the “5 dysfunctions of a team” arouse in our team – The Absence of Trust. After detecting this, Pascal and I organized an exercise together to work on it with the scrum team. Here is a summary of the exercise to share with everyone:


We planned to play the “non musical chairs” game, extracted from our friends at Tasty Cupcakes. This game was designed to tackle 5 objectives:

  • Self-Organized team is really efficient (no manager needed)
  • Team should find a quick and simple way to communicate (short verbal word)
  • The strategy has to be very simple (no time for thinking or organizing the team during the play)
  • Each member should trust other members (for taking care of the chair he left)

Materials required to play the game:

  • One chair for each team member and another one for the facilitator
  • A chronometer to measure each iteration
  • The team
  • A facilitator

We put 3 big white papers on the walls of the meeting room for:

  • Game Instructions
  • Game Rules
  • Game Iterations

Our experience:

How long did we play? 30 minutes
How many iterations did the TC scrum team play before having a winning strategy? It took us 8 iterations before reaching the winning strategy
Did the team have fun doing the exercise? A lot of fun !!!


The first and second iterations were pretty short, because the facilitator could sit almost immediately after the chronometer started. After that, the team started to find a way to cover the empty chair. As a result, the third and forth iterations lasted for more than 15 seconds … but again the empty chair was taken by the facilitator.

At this point in the game, communications were out loud and quite inefficient between team members.

Then something magical happened: the team asked for time alone (aka no facilitator in the room) to plan better their strategy regarding their empty chair. Once the team refined their strategy to protect the empty chair, the fifth, sixth and seventh iterations lasted longer than 30 seconds, the communication improved a lot, there were just words not phrases between them to protect the empty chair, self organization was taking place, short messages to communicate appeared, and some trust was built … although not enough to protect the empty chair for the whole minute.

Nice things happen:

By the eighth iteration, after a productive team retro, the team was able to win. They were so happy to reach the goal, the team was really excited about it.
Next iteration the team kept their winning strategy and again the empty chair couldn’t be occupied by the facilitator during the minute.

We were all tired by the end of the exercise because working in a productive team requires a lot of effort but the benefits are infinite when that happens.

One of the team members said “it was the most fun and insightful retrospective ever” so I invite my fellow ScrumMasters to try it and share with your experience with all of us!

I love Agile Games, don’t you?

Seedbox ScrumMaster