2 minute read

Shu-Ha-Ri is a widely known concept to describe the stages of learning in the Agile community. It comes from Japanese martial arts as many other concepts adopted in the Tech industry. I’m not sure when I was first introduced to the concept; Maybe in an Agile conference, or reading blogs from agilists such as Martin Fowler.

The central idea is that, when we learn something, we go through the Shu, Ha, and Ri stages of learning, as follows:

  • Shu: In the first stage of learning we are not capable, so we follow the teachings of a master. We don’t worry about the underlying theory. We just concentrate on executing the task;
  • Ha: In the next stage, with the mastery of the basic practice, we start learning the underlying theory behind what we do; We improve our own practice by observing the approach of others;
  • Ri: In the last stage, we are capable of learning from our own practice; We can adapt what we’ve learned and create our own approaches to different circumstances.

I think the concept is interesting to evaluate where we are in the learning process, and how we behave in some contexts, according to our expertise or maturity in a specific technique.

An example from the “Agile world”: People love to adapt frameworks and processes, such as the Scrum framework, to their specific needs. Every company and team is unique, right?

But are you a master of that particular framework to be able to adapt (and improve) it? Do you understand the benefits and trade-offs to do it? Or are you just reacting upon shallow experiences, and you may be even harming your team?

When you fight against the opinion or instruction of a senior collaborator (or the other way around), are you really in a position do to so? In which stage are you, and in which are they, in that specific technique? More often than you think, that will not relate to your seniority inside the company.

The Shu-Ha-Ri concept is a great way of learning where we stand.

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