Shu Ha Ri – Mastering the Art of Agile

Yesterday I was at a session called LeSS introduction with Craig Larman organized together with Adventures With Agile .The session was question driven and made sure that many of the audience´s questions got answered. In my opinion this was a very good format. Eeven though I was unprepared and didn’t really have any questions that I wanted answered, I was merely looking for that introduction to LeSS. I did receive it, and Craig mentioned a lot of other sound advice when it comes to Agile, which made my curious about his books.


One thing in particular that stuck in my mind was a section where he mentiond Shu Ha Ri. For those of you not familiar with the concept it’s taken from the japanese martial art of Aikido, and it has to do with the Kata. Shu Ha Ri represents different levels of mastering the Kata.

At the Shu level, you are a beginner and you need someone to tell you what to do and how to do it, so you follow the master and mimics his movements.

At the Ha level, you are beginning to understand the movements and why you are doing them. You can start to break away from the basic movements and try out different things.

At the Ri level, you have become a master of Kata yourself. You now understand the underlying principles of the Kata and can start to create your own.

But how does this apply to Agile? In short, if you don’t fully grasp the underlying principles of Agile and understand why you are doing certain things in a framework you have adopted, DON’T start to change things around to “suit your business better”. Have patience and bring someone in to help out with the initial adoption, learn to do the movements before you start to question them and try new things.


How does this apply to consultants who are brought in to help out with the Agile environment. In short, at the Shu level you need to bring prescriptions and provide a fairly closed off environment for the company to start with. At the Ha and Ri levels, you should avoid prescriptions as much as possible, because they already understand the principles good enough and don’t need someone to tell them what to do. They will need advice on how to change things up and perhaps be reminded on the Why.


More on LeSS <— can be found there.

And Adventures With Agile <— here.

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