Like anyone learning a new art, the Agile team goes through distinct stages in their educative process. Understanding these stages is essential for right level of coaching and mentoring. Let us look at these stages in this blog post.
The Shu-Ha-Ri Principle
Agile team stages can be compared to the famous Shu-Ha-Ri principle that comes from the Japanese martial arts. It refers to the three stages that a student undergoes in his or her learning process.
- Shu – Following the rules. In this stage the student understands the basic rules and follow them religiously. The teacher helps the student to learn and put the rules into practice. The focus is on getting comfortable with the art without any improvisation
- Ha – Branch out. Once the student is comfortable with basic rules, he or she begins to branch out. Branching out means trying customization or improvisation to the rules and putting them into practice. The focus is on mastery and adapting rules to suit the specific needs
- Ri – Learn from Practice. Once the mastery is obtained, the student learns from his or her own practice. The focus is on innovation and uniqueness in the practice of art
Shu-Ha-Ri in Agile
A team starting with Agile can be compared to the student learning an art. Hence the Shu-Ha-Ri principle we just discussed can be applied very well to any Agile Team.
Let us consider a team starting with Agile from scratch and how these phases can be applied from the perspective of Scrum Master.
Shu – The Coaching Phase
In this phase, the Scrum Master plays the role of a coach. He or she is responsible to educate the team about Agile principles and specifics of the methodology the team will adapt. Here are some common tasks performed by the SM during this phase.Scrum Master is a coach in the 'Shu' phase of Agile where the focus is on learning and following the rules Click To Tweet
- Make himself available as a Subject Matter Expert on Agile
- Take sufficient time to explain the Agile concepts, principles and methodologies
- Make sure to explain the reasoning behind each Agile ceremony like Planning, Review etc.
- Ensure that the team members follow the rules and intervene when there are deviations
- Perform team level coaching at the start and end of an iteration while focusing on one-to-one coaching during the iteration
Ha – The Mentoring Phase
In this phase, the Scrum Master takes a step back and set the team in motion. A suitable indicator to start this phase is the team’s comfort level with agile methods. Also the team must be in a position to appreciate what they are doing and understand the whys.In 'Ha' phase, Scrum Master becomes a mentor and the team looks for improvisation Click To Tweet
- Scrum Master becomes a mentor to share the best practices and tips to move things to a next level
- Constantly question the way some things are working and urge the team to try variations
- Motivate the team and individuals as necessary to derive benefits from agile methods
- Focus on Continuous Improvement and prevent complacency from setting in
- Provide the necessary confidence to the team in exploring new ways of working
Ri – The Advising Phase
Once the team is mature and willing to try new ways with ease, the Scrum Master start playing the role of an adviser. The team is very mature and well educated on agile methods, that they can mix and match techniques to suit their need.Adviser is the role a Scrum Master plays in 'Ri' and team tries to innovate Click To Tweet
- As an adviser, the Scrum Master plays a passive role and available for any consulting help to the team
- The team is encouraged to take best practices from other agile methods if they find it suitable (e.g., Pair Programming in Scrum)
- Some individuals in the team become a coach themselves and help fellow teams to get started with Agile
- Focus on Continuous Improvement remains intact and the team looks for ways to get better
- The Shu-Ha-Ri principle from Japanese martial art can be applied to Agile team development stages
- In Shu phase, the focus is on learning and following the rules. Scrum Master plays the role of a coach
- In Ha phase, the team is comfortable with the basics and look for ways to innovate. Scrum Master takes a step back and becomes a mentor
- In Ri phase, the team is an expert in agile methods and goes out-of-the-box to constantly improve. Scrum Master becomes an adviser here
What stage is your Agile team in? What is your experience with Agile coaching? We would love to hear from you in comments.