ShuHaRi related to competence

At the beginning of this week an article I read reminded me of Shu-Ha-Ri and Situational Theory. Find the article on the following link: Doing Agile is a sign of incompetence.

Consciousness and Competence

The article states that there are basically four levels of consciousness and competence. The team will adopt to Agile first with inconscious incompetence. The team new to the methodology will not know about their incompetence. The second stage is setup with conscious incompetence. After visiting the first seminar or a talk to a coach the team will realize their – yet – incompetence. After a while of experiencing it, the while jump the gap to conscious competence. While following the methodology by the book, they will gain consciously more and more compentence. The last step is then the inconscious competence, where you no longer need to look up in the book what to do next.

Situational theory

From the situational theory I learned that there is a similar pattern. Starting with unability and unsecurity related to the new job, a leader needs to lead his new colleague closely. Over time this evolves into confidence. Still (technically) unable to fulfill the job, the colleague is now gaining confidence. The leader still needs to supervise the activities, but not as closely as before. It’s the selling or coaching stage of leadership. After a while the unability gets replaced by ability, while the new learned skills get insecure. During this phase as a leader I need to participate in the actions of my colleague, but just with a supporting character. In the end there is a colleague with strong ability and high confidence, to whom I can delegate tasks of my daily work.


In the ShuHaRi model the student gets introduced on the Shu-level by following the skills as taught from the master. The actions or practices he learns are needed for the later stages. During the Ha-level he breaks free from the practices of the master and evolves his own principles behind them. He tries out new things. In the end on the Ri-level there will be pure adaptation without consciously thinking over the underlying principles or values.

How does all this relate to Agile?

Indeed, why I was so reminded on ShuHaRi was due to the reason that I read a discussion from Alistair Cockburn on why Agile teams fail. Due to this it’s either related to following a Cargo Cult, Shu-level actions or just laziness. The article on consciousness und competence and whether or not you are Agile or do Agile perfectly fits into this.

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