Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I've written in the past about the rules of jazz. I've come across another similar concept that has surfaced in relation to learning agile techniques; Shuhari. The ideas first gained popularity in the martial arts, but is being used these days when discussing agile. Alistair Cockburn has been an advocate of this idea (link).

Shu is the first stage, when a pupil is learning the technique. The emphasis here is practicing what was learned. This reminds me of the new Scrum Master, running their first projects following the techniques they developed in training. Having a coach would be beneficial at this stage.

Ha is where we start to think about what we've learned. We may start to bring innovation to our technique. In jazz, this is where you start taking solos and improvising. In the project setting, it is where you start bringing in new ideas.

Finally, Ri is where we discard the structure learned in the first step and take our own direction. We are no longer the student but the practitioner.

A key part of this approach is that it is a journey. As a project manager, you will face challenges if you try to move right to Ri without practicing in Shu and reflecting upon it in Ha. I have always been an advocate of selecting the right approach to manage a project based on the details of that project (a Ri action). However, to be able to do this, a PM must understand the tools in their toolkit, which they build in the Shu step. The Ha step is where the begin to understand how a particular approach works in a given situation.

This isn't a one-time journey either. I know as I adopt new techniques, I have to go through all three stages. Learning Scrum is a good example. I was already a project manager when I learned Scrum. I went through Scrum training and applied what I learned (Shu), then I started holding retrospectives with my team to reflect on how things were going (Ha), and then we modified our approach on new projects (Ri).

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